34 Years Summed Up In < 100 Words 

34 adventurous trips around the sun and this is what I’ve got: Washing hair is overrated - dry shampoo & rally. Lifting weights has been my most effective fitness regimen to date. Losing a dog is damn near one of the worst kinds of heartache. Divorce can be paralyzing. Losing friends due to divorce is painful. Amicable divorce is work, but worth it. Owning a business is the coolest & most stressful kind of freedom. Sunshine is, was, & always will be the best disinfectant. Change is inevitable. Growing is optional - do it anyway. Supportive friends rock. Mimosas for the win.

Do You Even Self Care? 

Can you think back to a time in your life where you simply were not taking good care of yourself? Do you remember how it made you feel? Is this happening now? I 100% believe in the notion that if we don't take care of ourselves fully then we can never truly give our best self to others. Self care is sometimes deemed a selfish act, but I think that self care vs. selfishness are on completely different ends of the self spectrum. 

You mamas out there fall victim to lack of self care ALL THE TIME. Kids first, kids first, kids first. While I think it's so very admirable that you do this for your littles, I think mamas miss the mark on the opportunity to take care of themselves, too. I'm not a mom (well, a dog mama 🐶) but I do know that I'm not my best if I don't self care. 

So how do I self care? I consider strength training to be one of my biggest self cares. I intentionally make time to move my body, strengthen my muscles, all the while cultivating a tribe around me. This one gets me a lot of bang for my buck.  I also think nutrition is a form of self care. What we directly put into our bodies will undoubtedly determine how our bodies perform for us. 

I took a brief survey yesterday among one of my challenge groups at my gym, (em)POWERHOUSE. Their biggest win in this first week is how much better they feel with strength training and eating with balanced nutrition. THIS IS WINNING, right? SELF CARE.

A solo night with wine + dark chocolate is another one of my self cares. 

Getting a massage. 

My meditation. 

Yoga. 

My THERAPY. Can I get an amen? You guys, therapy gets such a bad rap and is even considered taboo among some. My therapist has been a pivotal part of how I self reflect, how I take radical responsibility for the things I do every day, and above all else, she's the one that allows me to show up vulnerably in this world. I'm not, nor have I ever, taken medication (but it's okay if you do - that's a whole other topic of stigma). I've never felt like I couldn't handle the world around me (but it's okay if you have). And I don't walk into her office to lay on a couch and cry to the ceiling (it's completely okay if this has ever happened to you). 

Some days we laugh during a session. Some days I cry. Some days she hits me with reality. And some days I throw her for a loop in my latest life happenings. I'll drop in with coffee to show appreciation, and I even based my decision for my health insurance premium from HealthCare.gov based on which one allowed me to see her in the most affordable way necessary. 

Seeing a therapist is a brave act. It takes courage to show up authentically in order to face your fears, stresses, emotions, problems, successes and anything else happening in these grand lives of ours. 

If we're being honest, ANY form of self care is brave. How are you taking care of yourself to show up as your best you? The train is stopping, and I'm asking for an ALL ABOARD call right away. Do something for yourself today that will allow you to show up better for others. It doesn't have to cost you a thing. It could be as simple as setting aside twenty minutes to be present, be mindful, and set your intentions for your day. 

Self care. Do you even?  P.S. next week I'm trekking to D.C. to be a part of the Women's March. When you've got a fire in your belly, you do the things that help keep the fire burning. THAT is a form of self care. 

xo - coach fowler 

Cut Out the Size Tag

Push-ups are one of my favorite bodyweight exercises. They're very simple in context, but they can be VERY challenging when done correctly.  Grip. Abs. Glutes. Elbows drive back. Entire body moves all the way down and back up at the same rate. Yeah, yeah. You get me. 

This morning I was coaching one of my (em)POWERHOUSE Gym clients through a push-up in her superset, and I admittedly noticed the new shape that her glutes have taken on in the last few weeks. We deadlift a lot. We hip thrust a lot. I coach my clients to activate the glutes in everything. Activation builds dat muscle! 

"OMG look at your bootay!" 

She stopped mid push-up, looked at me directly and said, "I know but my pants aren't fitting anymore." 

"But look at everything your body can do, and the transformation in your glutes is PERF!"

I thought about this exchange all morning long. I don't know if she has embraced the fact that she's deadlifting more weight than ever before. I also don't know if she's embraced the fact that she's creating buns of steel. She obviously hasn't embraced the fact that her strong glutes are helping with her new, worked-so-hard-for, push-up form. SHE NAILS IT. She's worked hard for it. 

But honestly, it seems that she can't get past the fact that the changes in her body are changing the way her clothes fit. She's NOT putting on fat. Her muscles are sculpting and sometimes it's just harder to squeeze muscle into the jeans than it is to squeeze in softer body fat. 

I don't know if she'll ever fully grasp that her body is doing SO MUCH more for her now than it was six months ago. But my job, my goal really, is to show others that we ARE ALLOWED to start focusing on how our bodies PERFORM versus what pant size we take into the dressing room. 

Now let me back up. I do realize that on a weight loss journey the inches are lost and we reduce our size. I remember the first time I purchased a size 8 at Express. Never EVER in my teenage-to-adult life had I been a single digit. I floated from a 16-18 my whole life. It's true - soooooo I totally get identifying with a size that we wear. 

But, can I tell you that 15LBS later and a LOT of muscle and strength added, I still wear that size 8? It definitely fits different in the quads and butt, but they fit just fine. 

I also have a size 10 from Old Navy that fits. 

I have a freaking size 12 from Target that fits. 

I have medium shirts. I have large shirts. And sometimes I have to buy a women's XL - not for anything but my biceps and delts. They're typically busting at the seams. 

But if I let all of those sizes dictate my being because of the number on the tag, I really might feel unworthy. 

But instead I know that I can bench press 175 pounds. I know that I can move hella weight with my glutes in a barbell hip thrust. I can also perform several consecutive push-ups correctly. My body can do so much, and even though I sometimes have to up my sizes due to my new muscles, I AM OK with it because I love how my body performs. 

We don't all have to have the same goals for our body. And I mean that. While I love that a few months ago my spray tan lady noticed that my butt has lifted, someone else might not aspire for that same transformation. My only thought here is that if we are only focusing on getting into that perfect size, then we are missing out on the progress in the process. Nail the perfect push-up. Pick up the heavy weight. See your body for what it can do. Actions speak louder than the words on the tag. 

Buy the pants that fit, and if you need to, REMOVE the size tag. Cut that sh*t right outta there. Tag sizes are not a level playing field. Have you ever specifically shopped somewhere because you knew that your size was smaller there versus the store down the street? I get it. I get it. But our body is OURS, and no size tag or store gets to dictate how we feel about it. 

Keep up the good work. Have your own goals. And while you continue to realize your worth REGARDLESS of tag size, imma be over here working on more glute bigness. That's my goal. 

I Meant To Do That

If you follow me over on snapchat {👻 iamcoachfowler} then you may have seen the other day that I opted to walk and carry a big heavy box to the post office near my house instead of conveniently loading it into the car to drive it there. You see, I skipped my lifting that morning, so I figured I could at least find alternate ways to move throughout the day as my best backup. I love heavy carries - gimme, gimme! 

As I walked into the post office (sweaty and all), the sweetest woman said to me, "HAD I KNOWN you were coming here I'd have stopped and given you a ride. I saw you carrying that big heavy thing and felt SO bad for you!"

My response in the most kindest of tones: "Thank you so much, but I meant to do that. I didn't lift today."

She smiled, shrugged her shoulders, and we both went on about our USPS purchases. 

This stranger was incredibly kind to me. Her gesture was much appreciated, and it was so compassionate of her to see me carrying a heavy object and want to help me. My response was not self righteous by any means, but I wanted to reassure her that I was purposeful in my act. It also got my wheels turning. 

How often do we assume we know everything about a specific story or a place in time? How often do WE write the stories for OTHERS? This woman felt sorry for me and had written a sad story about my circumstance when in reality I was intentionally moving like a badazz. Her sincerity did not go unnoticed, but unfortunately, not all stories include sincerity. 

1: "That woman is eating at the restaurant all by herself. She must be lonely. Or weird."

2: "That man is begging for money on the side of the road. He's so lazy." 

3: "That woman is eating ice cream and still has a fit body. She can probably eat whatever she wants and never worry about her weight."

4: "That kid is so disrespectful and sleeps in class every day." 

5: "That woman doesn't have the body for that outfit." 

Truth is, {1} First woman enjoys her independence and opted to eat alone. In fact, she loves it! {2} The man suffers from a mental illness and doesn't have the capacity to look for the proper resources. {3} This woman works out and eats healthy most of the time, but opts for indulgences when she wants. She might even suffer TONS of guilt for indulging in that ice cream. {4} This kid lives in an abusive home and stays up late each night protecting his siblings. {5} This woman has lost weight and now feels confident to wear new clothing. 

Can you relate? Do you write stories for other people? I believe it's completely natural to do this, and it's safe to assume that we've all done it. There lies a problem, though, when our story actually begins to have a negative impact with how we view those around us. When we start to think negatively about others, WE THINK we know their story. 

Stop it. 

We are only responsible for our OWN stories. I'll admit - it feels a little more safe to control the story of others because it's entirely less vulnerable. Confronting our own is the hard part. It's the part that we OWN, whether we like it or not. 

Let's not write the story for a woman and her journey to a healthier lifestyle. Let's not write the story for how a parent raises their children. Let's not write the story on someone else's marriage, someone else's mistake, or someone else's life choices. 

Write your own story. It's more authentic, and it's the only one you'll ever have the permission to write. That shiz is copyrighted to you and ONLY you. 

Benefit of the doubt is always helpful, as well as a dose of "they're doing the best they can" or "they meant to do that" or "they might not know any better."  

I hope this got your wheels turning. I meant to do that. 

NO PAIN. NO GAIN? 

NO PAIN, NO GAIN? Let's settle this.  This is a widely disputed phrase in the fitness world. Some trainers push their clients to extreme measures, and sometimes these exact measures push clients into the "just work through it" mentality which inevitably honors injury after injury. 

Other trainers are on the opposite spectrum and constantly combat the "no pain, no gain" phrase. "Movement should not hurt." While I do agree that movement shouldn't hurt (like, injury hurt), I think sometimes clients use this mentality as permission to stop before it gets hard. 

But fitness IS hard. Let me explain... 

This morning I was at the bottom of a Bulgarian split squat. Rep 3. I had 30LB dumbbells in each hand asking myself how I was going to get to rep 10. That S%#@ BURNS. 🔥🔥🔥 YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN! And I still have two more sets? LAWD HELP ME. 

I was executing the lift safely and effectively, and it just so happens to be an excellent unilateral exercise. But, you guys, it sucks just a little. And that's where the phrase above comes in. No pain, no gain. It's pain - but NOT injury pain. But it's definitely uncomfortable. I believe it's important that we understand the difference. 

Here's my best advice for you in your weight room. LEAN IN to uncomfortable. Get comfortable with being a little UNcomfortable. It's going to burn, whether you're at the bottom of the squat, middle of a plank, or on the way down of an eccentric pull-up. Know the difference between injury pain and some burnin' pain. "We can push through the burn, but we never push through the pain." I repeatedly reinforce this with clients. I want them to know the difference, but they need to feel the difference, too. Self awareness is key. 

While we're at it, let's talk about leaning into burpees. If I include burpees in a finisher with my group sessions, I always put form at the front of the line. My clients know that they can perform a belly burpee, an athletic burpee, or a functional "stand up from a push-up position" burpee. They also modify by moving to elevated objects like curbs or plyo boxes or tires. I encourage them to scale the exercise for them, and then LEAN IN to discomfort by challenging themselves from there. 

When I have to perform an exercise that I deem challenging, I refrain from becoming discouraged. "Lean in, Stephanie," I mutter to myself. 

LEAN IN. Trying something new or working on a weakness is a vulnerable action. But it strengthens us in many ways - ways that don't always show up on the PR board. 

So that's my interpretation of "no pain, no gain". You've got to learn to experience some discomfort in your journey. Are there exercises that you know you're shorting yourself on? Could you still honor your body with the rest and recovery that it needs, but still challenge yourself to lean in to the undesirable exercises? I'm a certified trainer, and I STILL think Bulgarian split squats are awful. Awfully good, that is. 

Perspective changes everything. 

No pain, no gain? Yes! LEAN IN! But injury? Nope. I'm in this for the long haul. Working through an injury is not for me. 

It Doesn't Have To Be A Barbell

Yesterday I set a personal record for my bench press. While this might not seem like a big deal, I think it's a really HUGE deal considering that I've not used a barbell in over a year (aside from the last 3 weeks of my latest program). A couple of weeks ago I decided to join Kourtney Thomas and Jen Sinkler on their Bigness Project Early Coaching Program. Admittedly I didn't know what to expect, but I was completely open to what the next 14 weeks might bring. AND - BIGNESS. How could I ignore that part?

Yesterday started week 3. Listen, I'm no stranger to the barbell, but I've solely focused on improving my basic movement patterns with bodyweight exercises, dumbbells, and kettlebells. I even spend a lot of time crawling. I'm serious. Just ask my clients. This is also the same programming that I include for them at (em)POWERHOUSE Gym. We are building strength every single day, and barbells are just not in our repertoire... YET.

So back to my lift. I haven't had access to a spotter in the last two weeks, so I've been playing it uber safe on a couple of my lifts BUT THE WEIGHT HAS BEEN FLYING UP. (Note - Always have a spotter. Always.) Yesterday I had my spotter (finally) and I hit 155# on the bench press several times. Even when I was solely doing barbell training in the past I NEVER got more than 135 up off of my chest. I'm playing it cool in the video, but I WAS PUMPED. (pun intended).

https://www.instagram.com/p/BKCW8NtACuH/?taken-by=iamcoachfowler

During my Senior year of high school I was voted "Strongest Girl of 2001"at CHS in Chickasha, OK. (in case you're wondering - it's chick-uh-shay.) And that guy below? He was our "Strongest Guy of 2001". I got'chur back, Kyle.

kyle-and-meI was always very strong growing up. I was also much bigger than everybody else, so if I were going to be biggest girl in the group, I might as well embrace the iron and use it to my advantage. AT LEAST I had something that I could be confident in, right? Aside from school and softball, my confidence lacked in all other areas of my life. If you've been following me for a while, you might remember that I had my very first pair of "goal jeans" at the young age of 12. At 240lbs and 18 years old, bigness was all that I ever knew.

I also dabbled a lot with lifting while playing college softball. I was never the fastest, but you can bet that I wanted to out lift you if given the chance. Due to the nature of college sports and an increase in my activity level,  I actually lost a lot of that weight that I'd carried with me to college. I also discovered a love for running because the more miles that I tracked, the more pounds I would lose. I then took on marathon running after college, which then transitioned into endless elliptical workouts at the gym when I finally decided to be done with marathons. The duration of my 20s was seriously spent either on the asphalt, on a treadmill, or in the footprints of the elliptical machine.

Then LIFE happened at age 30. I got married, after that working out became less and less of a priority, and I slowly found thirty pounds that I'd lost somewhere along the way. When I decided that it was time to dial back in on movement, I discovered a local bootcamp that reignited my love for fitness. We used much lighter weights, but new knowledge on nutrition started to really change things up for me. I lost more weight, started a blog, quit my job as a high school teacher and coach, and now I own (em)POWERHOUSE Gym. (There's SOOOOO much more to that journey, and it can all be found right here, if you've got time for that.)

You see, my journey over the last 15 years has been pretty diverse.

fullsizerenderThis map has some roadblocks, and man oh man, my body has seen it all. But I didn't get to where I am without ALL OF THAT experience above. It took a lot of trial and error, a lot of experience, a lot of courage to say YES, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of burn, and a lot of heartache. Fitness is not always easy. I didn't always lift weights either. I had lots of other adventures  mixed in. And do you notice the trend? My story starts with lifting and bigness, but it also ends with lifting and bigness. That word has two completely different meanings from my start to my finish. Through 15 years I've embraced lot of different fitness avenues, but I've also taken on body love, compassion, and self image.

I want to clearly acknowledge a place for the barbell and for strength training, but I'm going to combat that idea with the notion that any movement at ANY level is powerful in its own right. I know this Bigness Project and its tempo training is changing my game, but because I allowed myself to build a strong foundation with bodyweight exercises and other accessories, I believe I came back to the barbell STRONGER THAN EVER BEFORE.

The fitness industry has a lot of dogmatic ideas when it comes to movement. Now - when it comes to safety and form I DO think that there are some best practices to follow. However, if you're lifting a barbell or a dumbbell or a kettlebell or walking on a treadmill or killing it on the elliptical or shakin' ya thang in Zumba, then YOU my friend, are a force to be reckoned with. Commitment to movement is an amazing feat, and if you're just starting this fitness ride out, don't let dogmatic ideas intimidate you and keep you out of the game.

It doesn't have to be a barbell. It doesn't have to be a kettlebell. It doesn't have to be running. Maybe it IS a resistance band. Maybe it IS a long walk in the park. Maybe it IS a 5K. You'll navigate your own route, but don't let "the only way" be the reason that keeps you away. (Also note: if you've got specific aesthetic goals, then there are certainly some detailed ways to train to reach those goals (LIFT WEIGHTS!), but for an entry point, just start SOMEWHERE).

Find something that drives you. There's an entry point for every single person out there, and no matter what anyone says, there's a way to build strength for whatever path you choose. It doesn't have to be a barbell.

 

 

I Blamed the Broccoli

  house-of-margot-personal-branding-photography-3I remember playing defense in the infield on my 2002 college softball team when a hard hit ground ball hummed my way. I bobbled the ball, messed up the play, and the runner was safe at first base. I stared dumbfounded at my glove, as if it were my glove's fault that I botched the routine play.

"It's not your glove's fault, Fowler!" my coach yelled out to me from the dugout. She was right. It was obviously MY fault, but it was easier to look at my glove and try to find the reason for the error there rather than be embarrassed for my mistake.

You'll laughingly witness the same thing at a little leaguer game. The cute little players with baseball pants up to their ears blame their gloves for pass balls all of the time. And if you're lucky you'll get to see them launch their gloves across the dirt in an effort to stop a moving ball. Ball gloves served a fine job of assigning blame for many plays on the diamond. Aw, the days of sunflower seeds and bubble gum.

Speaking of bubble gum.

gum

In 2014 I participated in three fitness challenges that required me to be on a very strict eating regimen. I wasn't competing for anything, but the weight loss challenge featured a money back option if you lost the allotted weight within the challenge. In addition to the strict meal plan provided, we were given unlimited access to workouts, accountability, and weigh-in.

I lost a lot of weight within those three challenges that I completed. I was at my smallest weight as an adult (smaller than I was in the 4th grade), and I was determined to play by the rules, follow the eating plan, and revel in my weight loss success. Having struggled with obesity at a young age, I was navigating into a new me, and it felt good at the time.

The problem was that I was starving myself. If we weren't on a high carb day, I was eating under 1000 calories for my meals. That's ALL of my meals put together. I would eat my breakfast, only to count down until I could have my next protein shake. Once I'd have my protein shake, I'd count down until I could heat up my prepped chicken and broccoli. Then I'd time it just right so that I could have my afternoon protein shake and a small, small handful of nuts, and then the count down ensued for my tilapia and asparagus dinner. Every. Single. Day.

I didn't fully understand this at the time, but I was starving, you guys. I couldn't drink enough water to make the hunger in my belly go away. I couldn't even complain about being hungry because I was losing weight. I was supposed to be hungry, right? The goal was to lose weight to feel more confident, but my social life and my outings with family and friends revolved around food. I measured my food, and I obsessed with every day results.

In an effort to avoid "cheating" and eating more than I was supposed to (I always ate more than my allotted nuts - TRUE statement), I chewed on gum all day long. I'll admit, I'm that person that always asks for two pieces of gum BECAUSE I LIKE TO POP BUBBLES. Don't judge me. But I began to chew gum incessantly. When I felt hungry, I chewed gum. When the flavor went away, I popped in a couple more pieces of gum. Directly after dinner, I'd have GUM for "dessert" so that I wouldn't get hungry before bed. Every trash can in my home and at work left proof of an obsessive gum chewing monster roaming the house. Gum was deemed as my saving grace in this weight loss challenge.

Until the gas bubble came.

I was still dropping weight in our bi-weekly weigh ins, but my stomach started to experience major bloat and constant gas. It even became a joke in my inner circle of friends. WHY WAS I SO GASSY?

"It's gotta be the broccoli."

brocc

My naivety in this situation is admittedly pretty embarrassing. But you really don't know something until you know. You know?  ;)  At that time I was blaming broccoli for my gut issues. I was even going so far as to searching the internet for broccoli side effects. (I'm SO serious, you guys. WTF!) I once faked sickness in my graduate level class because I could not comfortably sit in a classroom without flatus outbreaks. Embarrassing as it might be for both the physical and the ideological sides, it all happened because of my obsession with gum. Apparently excessive artificial sweeteners do not sit well with me.

For me, the gum obsession was a side effect of the restrictive eating plan. I was resolving my "overeating" problem, but I was bandaid-ing the issue with another obsession - gum. Replacing a problem with another problem isn't the answer. The ACTUAL answer is forming healthy habits, ones that don't fall on extreme sides of the spectrum - the good or the bad.

Sometimes smokers pick up unhealthy eating habits when trying to quit smoking. Sometimes drinkers pick up unhealthy shopping habits when trying to quit drinking. I wasn't cognizant that my new gum obsession was detrimental in so many ways.

After my challenges, I quickly gained weight back (hello water and carbs and satiable food), and I discovered that not only was chewing gum messing up my digestive system, but I had lost my menstrual cycle, I was losing my hair, I developed night sweats, and the list goes on. I'd gotten to a body weight 1) that I'd never, ever been at before and 2) I believe this body weight was much too small for me.

Hindsight is 20/20, and I can look back at that time in my life and still be thankful. The problems that I experienced forced me to become more educated about nutrition and body awareness. I now talk about eating in moderation, and I never blame foods for the problem. The problem is our relationship with food (or gum), and the outcome is the response to our actions with those specific foods (or gum).

Let me also mention - I think striving for fat loss is an admirable goal to have, but I now understand that FOR ME eating a strict regimen and white knuckling my way to the next meal with gum in cheek is not a sustainable way of eating. Sustainable fat loss takes time. It takes knowledge about your own body. There is no one size fits all nutrition plan.

This realization wasn't without disappointment. There are days that I think "Oh, if I can just go back to a really strict diet I could quickly get back to my leanest self." It just doesn't work like that anymore for me, though. I can mutter those words all I want, but I KNOW I have no desire to eat like that again. There's a way to dial in on nutrition without restricting yourself to obsession. If I go about fat loss, I realize now that it can't be a quick fix. The faster we lose it, the faster it comes back. I want to eat the same on Saturday that I do on Wednesday. Making it a lifestyle is the goal.

I obsessively chewed gum for a long time before realizing what the problem was for me. And gum wasn't the actual problem. The amount of gum I was chewing was my problem. The strict regimen was my problem. My inability to ask questions and educate myself at the time also contributed to the problem.

I think it's more important than ever that we ask questions when it comes to nutrition and movement. We can't work on autopilot and expect to get to know ourselves like we should. Ask questions. It's true trial and error. Find the things that work for YOU. It can be an overwhelming process, but credit yourself with the ability to figure it all out. TRUST yourself in the process. Some of us want to be handed an exact meal plan with exact instructions because we don't really trust ourselves. And why should we, right? Nothing that we've done has worked so far.

But it CAN work.

My story has lots of wrong turns, stop signs, and MANY instances of running red lights. But now I pay attention to the signs. I give my body the compassion and grace it needs. I love it right now, regardless of my body fat percentage. And I can still strive for wanting fat loss, but when and if I do that, I can do that in a healthy, sustainable manner. NOT in a manner that forces gum to come to the rescue of my ravenous belly.

I now moderate nutrition with the 80/20 rule, I lift heavy weights, and I practice compassion with myself on a daily basis.

I eat my veggies, too... But I don't blame the broccoli anymore.

 

Finding Strength in the Buff 

Today I had my annual appointment with my dermatologist. I've always been pretty freckly, and after having gone through a small scare two years back, I make it a point to go every single year for a thorough check-up.

I don't know if you've ever been to the dermatologist for a check-up, but lemme tell you, thorough means THOROUGH. You're completely nekkie, and every crack, crevice, and wrinkle is examined. It can feel pretty vulnerable, but I've gotten to the point where I find more comfort in knowing that my doc inspects ALL of it. It feels safe to me.  Today's appointment was different. As I was undressing, she quickly asked me if I was a personal trainer. I responded accordingly and then went on to tell her about my gym, (em)POWERHOUSE. We discussed everything from safe form, to camaraderie in group training, to building strength, and working towards sustainable nutrition - all the while intermittently slipping in her comments on my freckles and moles. 

Towards the end of my appointment, she expressed interest in contacting me, and she also mentioned how desperate she was to lose 20 pounds. Quite frankly, it surprised me. She is my height (5'10") and noticeably much smaller than I am, and right then I felt comfortable asking her where those 20 pounds were going to come from.

Her response? "I don't know. I just want to weigh _____." 

Me: "Get rid of your scale." 

Doc: "I should throw it away, huh? I'm slightly obsessed."

There was much more to our conversation, but the gist is that she felt comfortable enough to let me know that the scale runs her life, and she really doesn't have a reason to lose 20 pounds. She's chasing an elusive number thinking that she'll feel better once she reaches that weight. 

We know that's not always entirely true, right? We know that the number doesn't automatically make us happy. We have to find love and compassion in our current state, and that's where we can start to aim for goals. 

I talked about the importance of strength, and we also discussed the importance in feeling comfortable in her own skin. 

{meanwhile, I'm still naked.} 

She DID see me completely naked today. I have strong, muscular arms, but I also have a tummy that lacks a noticeable six pack. I am on "team thick thighs", and cellulite graces those thighs AND this booty of mine. 

She saw my body and all of it's social-media-labeled-flaws, and she wanted to know more. She didn't care about those so-called flaws. She had questions. She wanted advice. She saw strength.

She thinks she wants to lose 20 pounds, but do you want to know what I think? I think she wants to be strong. She just doesn't know it yet. 

I have single-handedly seen lives transform once they found strength. And listen, I'm not saying that being strong means you have to have big muscles (but I LOVE that idea). Strength comes in many different forms. 

FOR ME, strength has changed my mindset. I look at aesthetics differently. Sure, there are times in my life that I strive for fat loss, but there are times in life that I strive for ALL THE SANGRIA. But I mostly find balance in moderating between those two things 365 days out of the year. I could have a more cut and lean body, but I'm not willing to white knuckle my way through miserable eating to get there. 

It's the STRENGTH portion that has allowed me to find that sense of worth. It's knowing that I can take a heavy object and safely move it if I need to. It's the idea that if my 70lb lab got hurt that I could pick her up by myself and get her to safety. It's the idea that I don't need a number on the scale to walk around strong and confident. I walk around strong and confident BECAUSE I GAVE MYSELF PERMISSION TO DO SO. 

NOT THE MEDIA. 

NOT MY SPOUSE. 

NOT MY FRIENDS. 

I found strength in that appointment today, even in all of the vulnerable nakedness. I hope that my doc did, too. 

Strive for strength. You just might get more than you bargained for. 

Engage. Empower. Elevate. 

xo

Coach Fowler

PS {I am fully clothed again, and it's overrated.}

Makin' & Breakin' Habits 

Sweet summertime is here, and it’s the best reason to let our habits go awry. The kids are out of school, vacations are in the planner, and cookouts, happy hours, and lake rendezvous are all the rage.

I’m out of protein powder, so after coaching my morning classes I made a call to my wife letting her know that I’d be stopping by the store to pick up some protein on the drive home. It wasn’t until I was pulling into my driveway that I smacked myself in the forehead. HOLY SH%T I forgot to stop and get protein?! I even stated OUT LOUD on the telephone that I was making a pit stop, and yet I still went on autopilot and ended up in my driveway with zero protein powder.

We certainly are creatures of habit, aren’t we?

The word habit triggers an embarrassing moment for me. I’m a tad humiliated to tell you why, but I’m going to do it anyway. I’ve always considered myself a very good student – even completing grad school was a reminder of how much I actually love being a student. Learning new things is my jam. I was always a great speller, math came natural to me, and writing was something that I always loved. Side note – I was actually going to major in Journalism at UNT, but it was going to require me to play catch up on my pre-reqs, so I decided to stick with business instead.

So about that embarrassing moment…

We were having a spelling bee at my school, and as I stood in front of the mic, the moderator gave me the word “habit”. I KNEW how to spell the word, but I was in front of my peers (helloooooo, intimidation), in front of parents, and I IMMEDIATELY thought of the word “rabbit”.

“Habit. H-A-B-B-I-T. Habit”

“That is incorrect.”

I was mortified. I immediately realized that I’d spelled it incorrectly, but I couldn’t take it back, and I had ruined any chances of being any spelling bee champion. I still bring this story up from time to time. It’s evident that I’ve moved on from the situation lolololol.

Our habits represent us to the outside world. They’re the things that we engage in, good or bad, that demonstrate how we live our lives. For instance, working out for me is a habit. I’m not obsessive, but it’s something that I try to incorporate into my everyday routine. I will workout until I can’t workout anymore. I know this to be true because it’s a habit that I intend to nurture for the rest of my life. I took 5 days off last week because of some annoying inflammation in my knees, but today I was back in the game. If this weren’t already a habit, then it would have been pretty easy to let the routine fall at the wayside.

Healthy eating? Same.

Flossing? I need to nurture that habit FOR SURE. lol 

How many times have you started at a gym or decided to overhaul your diet and then several days later quit cold turkey? Along with being creatures of habit, we are living in a time where we expect immediate results, and when results don’t happen on our time frame, we give up or move on to another method. Creating a habit takes time. It requires careful planning, attention, drive, willpower, and the WANT.

I would really like to make it a habit to read more, but I admittedly haven’t made it a priority. I read on airplanes, I read while traveling, and then I’ll intermittently read around my house when I have the time. If I want to actually read more books, I MUST incorporate reading time into my schedule.

Think about some of the habits that you engage in every day. What are the things that you would like to make more habitual? Meditating, praying, working out, healthy eating, flossing (hehe), reading, journaling, and walking your dog are great examples. What about habits that you’d like to eliminate? The snooze button, lack of sleep, mid-afternoon candy bars, highway speeding and smoking might be good examples for you.

Whether we’re makin’ habits or breakin’ habits, I think we can all agree that it takes some diligent planning and effort, and while it’s not easy, I think we can all agree that it’ll be worth it.

What habits will you nurture and/or eliminate today? 

xo

Engage. Empower. Elevate. 

Coach Fowler 

I Flunked the Monkey Bars

Because of my size, there were a lot of basic things that I couldn't physically do as a child. I never learned how to do a pretty cartwheel, handstands were laughable, and monkey bars were downright embarrassing.  I did play sports though, and softball would eventually be my ticket outta town that would lead me onto a path of a college degree alongside a soon-to-be changed body. I then spent my 20's on a path of self discovery in the world of fitness and nutrition. 

At 33, my mindset and physique have seen their fair amount of 180 changes:

-I once ran marathons and ate everything in sight to fuel for the next race. 

-I starved myself for months leading up to my wedding for "the perfect day". 

-I white-knuckled my way through very restrictive eating challenges to find my way to the smallest weight I'd seen since childhood. 

And now I can happily say that I have a moderate mindset - one that fuels my body with the right foods, but certainly does not fear the idea of a cupcake. I indulge mindfully, and I always do it without guilt. 

I've also found that building strength has given me a new kind of confidence. I've stepped away from the barbell over the last few months to work on a new program preparing me for a kettlebell certification this fall. In this program I've worked on my functional strength, giving me a much stronger foundation to build on in the future. 

Last weekend my (em)POWERHOUSE crew and I participated in a local obstacle mud run together as a team. We appropriately started with mimosas, ensuring that we eliminated some fear factor of any of the obstacles. Are we doing it right? WE SURE ARE! 

We dominated some, we skipped some, and we made fools of ourselves at a few, too. But I walked away more proud than ever because during the race I successfully made it all the way across the "Rings of Fire" without dropping into the water below. I had previously made it my goal to use grip strength to swing my way across the entire obstacle. 

I did it. And while there might be a lot of other bigger and stronger feats out there, THIS feat made my 12 year old obese and overweight self more proud than ever. It made me forget about any insecurities that I might have about my body. It made me forget that my knees hold me back from a lot of activities. It made me REMEMBER why strength is so important in our every day lives. 

Sometimes we spend endless amounts of time focusing on our scale weight or the aesthetics of our bodies or the way we look in pictures, but we forget to appreciate the amazing amounts of strength that our body will develop for us if we will allow it. 

We are capable of achieving so many things on a day to day basis, but we don't always credit those accomplishments because we're too busy thinking about how to lose a fast 10 pounds before an upcoming trip or avoiding wearing shorts in the summertime because of the cellulite on our legs. SERIOUSLY? Oklahoma summers are hot. I'm pleading with you - WEAR SHORTS! #teamnopants

YOUR BODY CAN DO AMAZING THINGS WITH STRENGTH. Don't get me wrong - fat loss goals are completely okay. Scale weight goals are also okay. But rather than using negative reinforcement throughout the journey, what if we start celebrating what we CAN do? 

Did you pick up a heavier dumbbell? Did you grab a deadlift PR? 

OR...

Did you carry the biggest bag of dog food to your car all by yourself? Were you able to take the stairs instead of the elevator? Did you make it all the away across the monkey bars? 

WHATEVER it is, celebrate THAT shiz! I sure did.

Engage. Empower. Elevate. 

-xo

Coach Fowler

It's Not ALL About Comfort

IMG_9062.jpg As we grow older, the significant "BIG" purchases that we've made stick out in our memories: the first car you bought, your first home, the day you paid off your student loans! I remember buying my first brand new car within a couple of weeks after getting my Bachelor's degree. I would finally have a dependable mode of transportation. My college jumper cables could rest. One year later I bought my first house at age 23. I didn't have a lot of things to go inside of this small house of mine, but I had a house that I owned, and that was pretty cool. It wasn't until a couple of  years later after having had a steady career under my belt that I was able to afford the luxury of a new bedroom suite. No more mismatched furniture, no more high school nightstand, and certainly no more egg crates to help hold space for clothes because my dresser was too small. This was not a small purchase, and I'd decided that I was going to get exactly what I wanted. "I deserve it!"

My high school mattress needed to be thrown out, so I decided to go with the "free" mattress that came with my new bedroom suite. If you've ever made this same mistake, you soon found out that the "free" mattress is free for a reason. It was awful. It was uncomfortable. It was too good to be true.

So in addition to spending a small fortune on a new bedroom suite, I forked over the money to invest in a great mattress. In this case, comfort won.

There are many things that we all buy on a day to day basis where comfort is a factor for our purchase - the mattress where we sleep, the clothing/shoes we wear (and when we choose style over comfort, you guys KNOW we regret it by the end of the night! #barefoot), the cars we drive, the rings on our fingers, the sunglasses on our face, the crowd that we hang out with, the neighborhood of our home, etc...

So we can all agree that comfort is sometimes a BIG DEAL.

So fast forward to today when I was working with my trainer, Eric. He's a movement specialist, and he's also a StrongFirst certified instructor. I sought him out to work with me while I train for my kettlebell certification. I've learned so much about how my body moves AND about body movement in general. See, we coaches need coaches, too! I've told him on numerous occasions that he has made me a better trainer.

Me: "Oh, this feels pretty good today!"

Eric: <repositions foot>

Me: "Oh $hit!"

You see, Eric has exposed how wonky my hips operate for my body. Before I ever even pick up a kettlebell in my session, we work on a sequence of things involving only body weight. Like so many of us, I unknowingly in my past added load (iron weight) to disfunction within my body. I was getting stronger in the weight room, but my functional strength, (the foundation of it all) was actually not all that strong. I'm happy to state that things are definitely progressing, but it wasn't an overnight progress - that's for sure.

Every time I see Eric, my body is in a somewhat uncomfortable state. It's not painful though. Pain and discomfort are two totally different things. "If it feels all nice and comfy, then I know I'm not doing it right," I jokingly said to him in the middle of an awful hip flexor stretch with a mean 'ol resistance band. I make the best #meanface when we're doing this.

But after I said that, I realized that I actually say the same thing to my clients. "We will NOT work through pain, but we will work through burn. I want you to become comfortable with being uncomfortable." I want them to know the difference. When we're activating the glutes during a hip thrust or using full tension to hold an effective plank, it's honestly not comfortable in a fuzzy kind of way. There's some burn to a heavy lift. There's some burn in a plank. There's some burn in a sprint.

But the pain you have in your shoulder? The nagging pinch in your knee? THAT'S pain - and that's something to address and something to LISTEN TO when exercising. That's when rest might be needed, and that's when a modification might need to be planned. That's when comfort is imperative for your pain - and choosing to ignore that might lead to worse conditions.

The "burn" can make things hard for new gym goers. It's definitely uncomfortable in the beginning, it feels defeating, and DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) makes it an easy decision to rest, rest, rest, and then eventually not come back. This goes back to my statement above - I think it's important to get comfortable being uncomfortable. The more we move, the more advanced we can get (in terms of adding load OR increasing ROM OR moving in more advanced moves). But as we all know, things are never just easy. Coming out of the bottom of a deep squat never feels EASY. But it ALWAYS feels good.

"NO PAIN NO GAIN!" - and this is where I think people become confused between the difference in pain and burn. While there are coaches out there that are willing to put you through the ringer to get a good workout, I can tell you that I am not one of those coaches. I do push my clients out of their comfort zone for a challenging 45 minutes, but I also highly encourage rest (often) and modifications when necessary. It's not always "go hard or go home". There are times when we must listen to our bodies.

There are different perceptions of what it means to listen to our bodies. Am I choosing to skip this workout because my bed is oh so cozy, or am I skipping it because my lats are wrecked? Sleep is necessary, but so is movement. It's tricky to find the balance to fit it all in. When I am contemplating skipping a workout I like to ask myself, "am I being lazy or do I really need to rest my body?" For ME, I know that movement makes me feel better, so EVEN on my tired days, I strive to move no matter what. I may not go as challenging and I may not go as hard, but I GO. And guess what? I never regret it.

But there HAVE been days where I suit up at home, walk to the garage with my kettlebell, a staring contest ensues, the kettlebell wins, and then I walk inside. Those days are laughable, and they only happen every great once in a while.

So as we strive for comfort in so many of the things that we do in our every day lives, remind yourself that there ARE instances where discomfort provides growth - whether it be in our marriage, our friendships, or our fitness journey. In the instance of pain vs burn, we push through the burn while avoiding pain. Knowing the difference between the two is pivotal to a successful workout program. Mindfully listen to your body, and choose consistency with movement.

I'll keep all of this in mind when I find myself coming out of the bottom of a goblet squat with a heavy kettlebell in hand.

Burn, baby, burn.

engage. empower. elevate. 

xo Coach Fowler

 

 

Habit > Motivation : BYE, Snooze Button.

IMG_4450 copy.jpg Last week I decided to work on kicking a habit that I've been allowing myself to engage in for quite some time: hitting the snooze button.

I'm an early riser. I coach my first strength class at (em)POWERHOUSE Gym at 5AM. It's actually our busiest and most consistent class. When we first opened our doors back in August, I was up by 4AM making my coffee, getting dressed, and allowing myself plenty of time to get my mindset right before leaving for the gym.

As the months went on, I wasn't getting the appropriate sleep that I needed in order to feel fully rested. When my alarm (both of them) would go off, I'd hit the snooze button multiple times, annoying my sweet wife to no end. Although still arriving to the gym in a timely manner, the snooze button made for a super annoying and rushed process of making coffee, getting dressed, and picking my socks out in the dark.

I started hitting the snooze button EVERY SINGLE DAY, regardless of my sleeping pattern. Even on days where I WOULD get plenty of sleep, the snooze button became my autopilot button. I now knew (down to the very minute) at what point I would HAVE to crawl out of bed in order to get to the gym on time. I started noticing that my morning routine was much less peaceful - more stressed, more rushed, and let's get real - I drove with a hint of anxiety. I like to be prepared, but I was honestly cutting it way too close for my own comfort.

Snooze

There's a point in which things crossed a line - and that was the morning that I didn't have time to make my coffee because I'd hit snooze one too many times. Coffee is another habit of mine, but it's also an "experience". I love sipping on my cup of joe while I drive quietly to work. Most mornings I don't even turn on the music. It's my meditative time where I think, brainstorm, breathe, and get my mind ready for the day. So you can imagine that I was pretty annoyed with myself during that drive. I probably even turned the music on, avoiding my quiet time. BECAUSE no coffee.

So now I was hitting snooze because I knew that I could, and not particularly out of necessity. I started digging deep into this simple action of mine. WHY was I doing this? I know when it comes to motivation, I'm at the top of my game. And while motivation creates excitement and drive, I am starting to understand that consistency (i.e. those habits) outlives motivation.

In my case, my consistently "pushing the snooze button" created a habit - one that I wanted to eliminate. I started to think of how all of this translates to working out and nutrition and life's everyday activities.

I'm going to say something that may surprise you: I'm NOT always motivated to work out. Are you surprised? Maybe. Maybe not. But it's the truth. There are days that my schedule is crazy and there are days that I'm honestly just NOT feeling it. But EVEN on those few days when I lack motivation, I have made working out a HABIT of mine. In this case, this habit IS desirable, as I know that working out, lifting weights, and moving my body is better for my health AND better for my mindset. And guess what? I always feel better afterwards, and I'm always thankful that I stayed with my habit. Nobody ever regrets the workout after the fact, right?

The same can be stated for those that do just the opposite. How often do you see somebody  motivated to start a new workout program only to disappear within a few weeks or months? This is because when their motivation goes away, they're going back to WHAT THEY ALREADY know, and for some, this means no working out at all.

Let's look at nutritional habits. We're actually discussing this very subject in my Girls Gone Strong "Strongest You" program coached by Jen Comas. Most people are motivated by the notion to eat and incorporate healthier foods into their diet. But old habits have an ability to creep back in (sneaky b*stards!) and people often revert back to those old habits in times of stress or peer pressure.

The less than desirable habit I have with these mini eggs should DIE. It's a habit of mine to buy these (multiple bags) every year at Easter. I'm working on it, but I'm also admittedly relieved that most of these bags are in the clearance section, soon making their way out of all candy aisles. #halp

Cadbury-Mini-Eggs-Wrapper-Small

Can you see a pattern? We can look at NUMEROUS situations in our lives - comparing the motivation factor to the habit factor. The habits we create will win EVERY time.

So back to my snooze button. I knew that I wanted to change the situation, so I decided to create a few action steps in order to set myself up for success the next morning.

  1. I made the conscious decision that I wanted to stop pushing snooze. This has to be the first step in redirecting any habit. If you don't REALLY want to change it, then you're not going to work as hard at it, right?
  2. After telling MYSELF about my new intentions, I told my wife about my plans. This created the accountability piece.
  3. Making my bedtime a priority. Listen, we all need our sleep. In order for me to start this habit out RIGHT, I HAD to set myself up for success by getting to bed at a reasonable time.
  4. I changed my alarm tune to a loud, upbeat tone. You might think that this negates my desire for wanting to wake up in peaceful mindset, but for this situation I needed a way to get my a$$ out of bed. JLo's "Booty" song did the trick.
  5. I set all of my clothes out the evening before. Now you might be thinking ,"that only sounds like a solution that would help if she were continuing to push snooze." But for me, this just added value to my morning routine. Not only would I be waking up "on time", but everything from getting dressed to making my coffee would make the process run smooth.

So far, my actions steps are working! I've gone 4 whole mornings avoiding the snooze button. I'm back to loving my morning routine, and the coffee always tastes better when you can enjoy the experience. I'm going to HAVE to remain consistent with these steps, or it's very likely that I could fall back into the snooze button habit. Habits will outlive motivation every single time. Evaluate the habits in your own life - those with your own snooze button, working out, nutrition, relationships, etc...

You're one (or a few) action steps away from working to start/stop/redirect a habit. Motivation is a wonderful thing, but the habit wins every time. Don't miss out on an opportunity to live the way that YOU want to live. After all, ya snooze ya lose!

(You had to know that was coming!)

Engage. Empower. Elevate.

Coach Fowler

 

 

 

 

 

A New Year Is Not A New You

Alas, December is here - the month where you'll see excess of peppermint mochas, tacky sweater parties, and all things Christmas and Hanukkah and Festivus, too! Regardless of what you might celebrate during this time of year, we can all agree that holiday cheer is displayed on every street corner in a city near you. It’s a time to celebrate LOVE with family and a time that triggers STRESS with family. It’s a time to PAUSE and enjoy the moment and a time that demands URGENCY to get everything done. It’s a time for JOY and a time that causes ANXIETY. You catchin’ my drift? We love to celebrate the good, but inevitably for some, there is always a hiccup that pops up throughout the holiday season. I hope you’re choosing to let the good outweigh the possible less-than-good of your holiday hustle. This month also marks the end of another year. A lot of people use this as a time of self-reflection – where we evaluate ourselves in our current careers, our current financial situation, and for A LOT OF US - our current pant size. We all do it. We compare ourselves to where we were last year, and the year prior, and then sometimes we go waaaaaay back to before we were married or before we had babies or before real life happened. We trap ourselves into thinking that the current “ME” is not as disciplined as the previous “ME”.

And if we’re lucky, some of us might be able to say we’re in a much better place THIS year than we were last year. Either way, January 1 brings to us the act of comparison. More times than not, the comparison that we’re experiencing is stealing from our ability to be happy with our current self.

comparison

Around this time of year the fitness advertising hype chimes in, and everybody around us convinces us that we must do “this” and “that” and “change this” and “change that” in order to make 2016 a better year. We see this REPEATEDLY in the fitness industry, an industry where the ongoing joke is that January is the busiest time of year for gyms – and then you already know what happens in February and March and thereafter.

People start the year off with GRAND, aspiring goals, and let me be clear - goals are to be commended! Often times, though, those goals don’t make it past the first month. In the past I always had a goal for a “clean slate” starting January 1. New Year’s Day arrives and I quickly abandon (every single year) my first goal of eating black eyed peas, and then more times than not, I ended up splurging with some unhealthy meal for dinner and THEN I would justify to myself, “It’s ONLY a day. I’ll start tomorrow instead.” So much for starting the New Year with success. Sound familiar? This has happened to me more times than I could ever count.

“A New Year, a NEW YOU…”

I don’t necessarily resent that phrase, but I’m going to challenge you, along with myself, to go at it thinking differently this year. Rather than giving yourself the stress of creating a whole new YOU, why not think of approaching the New Year as “moving forward”?

Moving forward. Ahhh. I kinda like that. It might not sound as glamorous or life changing or powerful – but it’s what we aim for every day, right? We want to move in a positive direction to better ourselves or give ourselves permission to experience different life events. Of course you can always set new goals – goals are encouraged, and you should most certainly always have goals for yourself.

a new year is not a new you

See these photos? They are all photos of ME. As you glance from left to right you'll notice that I moved forward in age and forward in thinking and forward in my fitness journey.

Picture 1 - 18 years old / an athlete with no nutrition knowledge

Picture 2 - mid 20's / I took up marathon running, but still lacked nutrition knowledge

Picture 3 - 30 years old / underwent several month calorie deficit in preparing for wedding day / still a runner

Picture 4 - 32 years old / taken after participation in new workout regimen and restrictive meal plan

THIS IS ME TODAY - 32 years old / living a life of moderation and no restriction

These photos all reflect ME. Not an "old me", not a "new me". Just.... ME.

Another phrase I often hear: “I can’t wait for the New Year to get here – I’m leaving this year far behind and never looking back.”

I try to avoid this phrase. Do you want to know why? Because every single life experience – the good, the bad, and the ugly – that happened throughout the past year has completely shaped me (literally and figuratively) to be who and where I am today. I’ve put myself in a position to grow and learn from every life experience. Life is not always peachy – we all know that. Things happen to us. We hurt, we grieve, we cry, we lose, we gain, we suffer, we live – and through all of those emotions, I try to create a stepping stone to move forward to the next life experience. That doesn’t mean that you have to drag things with you from the past. You can LET GO of things from your past. Letting go is different, and we can all agree that not everything from last year will travel with you into next year. But avoid running from last year – instead, position yourself to learn and grow from last year’s life situations. See the difference? It’s more of a mindset shift.

So now you might be thinking, “Hey, I do have goals for 2016. I want to be different. I want to start working out, get in shape, look better. I WANT a new ME.”

Those goals are ON POINT! But you don’t honestly need a new YOU to start said goals. You can still love YOU and be YOU and still incorporate new goals and challenges that will transform you. And we transform by simply moving forward – one step at a time. (And honestly, if you still want to refer to each year as a "New YOU", then so be it. I'm just here to challenge your thinking and get the wheels a turnin').

So in this time of holiday hustle, reflection, and goal setting, I challenge you to think of moving forward. I want you to be okay with your CURRENT YOU. A NEW version of yourself is not needed in order to create and achieve goals. YOU, in this moment, are enough. And - - - - wait for it. You DON’T have to start your goals in January. Start NOW. Be it a new career, a different nutrition plan, committing to a workout regimen – move forward with the confidence that your current YOU is good enough to achieve those goals.

Speaking of moving forward – if you are in the Oklahoma City area and you’re looking to commit to the goal of working out, please take a moment to check out (em)POWERHOUSE Gym. During my own personal time of reflection, I have the BIGGEST amount of gratitude for so many wonderful things that happened in 2015. Owning a business with a constant mission of giving back to the community has allowed me to move forward in a multitude of ways, and it’s given me the strength and confidence to create and pursue additional goals. Every day I’m humbled to get the opportunity to coach this #EEEtribe. Whether you decide to come visit us OR you decide to partake in another fitness route, I sincerely wish you the best as you move forward with your 2016 goals.

Go find your best version of YOU – not necessarily a new you – just the BEST VERSION OF YOU!

engage. empower. elevate.

xo

Coach Fowler

I Can't Workout, and It's Gonna Be Okay. 

I don't workout because I have to. I workout because I want to. I've always played sports, I love competition, and I thrive when I sweat. Bring. It. On.

I was like that back in high school, too - but my lack of nutrition handed me a whole different lifestyle with a yucky self perceived body image.  And then years later when I realized what the benefits of healthy nutrition can do for the body, I became OBSESSED with working out and eating right. Two-a-day workouts were often in my schedule. I did not miss a day. No way, no how.

I've come a long way. I'm not obsessed anymore with working out. I simply enjoy it, it's an obvious part of my routine, and I eat moderately to go right along with it.

I've been on both ends of the spectrum, and if you've read earlier posts of mine, you already know that I've found solace in the happy medium position. I still almost always workout 4-5 days per week, but if I miss a day OR three, I simply don't freak out. Life happens, and I always get right back to it. (Not to be confused with jumping back ON the wagon. What wagon? It doesn't exist).

I've even hired a trainer to work on some movement issues. Hey, trainers need trainers, too! It's been pretty remarkable to see my movements broken down from a movement specialist. Humbling might actually be a better word. I've had to slow down my pace to work on breathing (yes, breathing apparently is a challenge for me!) and I've worked on getting back to fundamental movements that transfer into real life. I love the barbell, but I'm not picking that thing up until I fix my left hip - actually, until I fix my ENTIRE left side. You see, I'm kind of broken and I really had no idea. I was graciously born with lateral patellas, and in addition to my years as a college athlete and then doing so many things incorrectly for a really long time, I've found that I need to back it up to basic movements. It's humbling, it's fun, AND I get to work more with the kettlebell.

Speaking of my wonky left side - I'm having surgery on my left knee tomorrow. It's just a little arthroscopic procedure to rid some chondroplasties floating around causing some major discomfort and swelling. It's been ongoing since July (I just love injuring myself in my backyard jumping on things) and it's time to get it fixed. The recent knee issue has really brought light to the problematic left side of my body. It's all connected, folks.

I've actually never had surgery before. I'll be weight bearing once the nerve block wears off 1 day post surgery, but I'm absolutely going to have to take some time off. That would have scared me a year ago. But this year I'm going to BABY this knee. I've got some nasty issues that I'll have to address with my knees later on down the road (thank you, family genes) so for now I'm gonna play by the rules. Not because I have to, but because I need to.

There's no "I can't wait to start squatting again!" or "I will have to eat super healthy since I'm not working out".

I'm excited to still get to be around my clients, and I'm looking forward to ALLOWING myself to heal. I'll take advantage of this downtime and work on my alignment patterns and resets, and soon enough I'll be back at it.

It's all gonna be okay.

I've transitioned my mindset. It's not all or nothing. I've found gratitude somewhere in between. That's my happy place.

Now off to bedazzle my crutches. No, seriously.

I'll be in touch. In the meantime - whatever it is, it's all gonna be okay.

Engage. Empower. Elevate.

xo

Coach Fowler

Pumpkin Pie Then And Now

before.afterThanksgiving here in the United States is right around the corner (meaning you only have 3 days to get to the grocery store before all chicken stock is obsolete). For the love of your holiday sanity, beat the last-minute-crowd grocery shopping on Wednesday evening! Although I'm not a fan of losing daylight and delving into colder weather, I AM a big fan of the holidays. And with holidays comes feasting with the family. YUM. All things turkey and dressing (i.e. stuffing), green been casserole, sweet potatoes (do you put marshmallows on yours, too?) and pumpkin pie. BECAUSE pie.

I've been through many, many changes in nutrition and fitness in my life, and this year I've got a completely different approach to my Thanksgiving dinner. Before I tell you what it is, let me catch you up on my history with food.

  • kid/teenager- as you can see from the photo above, I lived a life full of overeating that lacked any focus on nutrition. I lifted a lot of weights and played softball (eventually collegiate), but my eating outworked my movement.
  • throughout my 20's - post college softball I discovered long distance running and ran multiple half marathon and full marathons. I lost a lot of weight, but I carb-loaded with donuts and bagels and pretty much had an "I run so that I can eat whatever I want" type of attitude.
  • age 30 - I got married and running became less of a priority. Meanwhile lack of nutrition took over. I gained some weight back and decided that it was time for a change.
  • 31 - I went extreme and started working out and participated in 3 different restrictive meal plan challenges getting down to my lowest weight (ever) of 156 with never-seen-before ab definition, and I had become completely obsessed with the scale.

Right now I'm 32 years old, and I'm certainly not still at 156LBS. With a lot of detail left out between each of those tabs, it's still easy to see that I went through an all-or-nothing type of regimen throughout my journey.

And neither one of them worked for ME.

When I ate everything in sight, it left me with an obese figure and I was completely controlled by food. When I restricted myself on a strict diet, I still found myself controlled by food. And after each restrictive challenge I would slowly binge my way back to a higher number on the scale than what I had ended each challenge on, thus leaving me in a defeated state of mind. That's why I did 3 challenges. I constantly went back for more to chase that number. It worked - but it was also a competition style diet for a mainstream woman. I don't participate in bikini and figure competitions, so I really don't need to eat for one. I needed something sustainable that I could do FOREVER. I am so thankful that I had the experience, and I honestly learned a lot during that interim. But I'm mostly thankful for the things I learned that I should not do anymore - restrict. It just doesn't work for me.

With the help of some fabulous blogs and mentors and a heavy dose of self awareness, I have found myself in a moderate state of eating. I AM NOT AFRAID OF FOOD. FOOD DOES NOT CONTROL ME. I can proudly say that I no longer stand in the grocery aisles clueless as to what I should put into the basket.

"Does that have too much sugar?"

"Is that all natural?"

"How many carbs are in that?"

"These are the foods I have to eat if I want to lose weight."

As I stated above earlier, I've got a completely different approach to my Thanksgiving dinner this year. In the past I would fill my plate (okay, stacked would be a better word) food on top of food on top of food and sit down for Thanksgiving dinner. Then I would go for round #2. And then I would allow myself dessert "once I let my food settle". I've even had to sit with my pants unbuttoned because I let myself get too full.

A little much, yeah? Can you relate?

So how will I eat this year?  I'll eat whatever I want, focusing more on the protein and veggies, but allowing myself to enjoy it all. I will continue my practice of eating until I'm 80% full. A friend and I once had a discussion on what constitutes 80% full - for us, we decided that if we could still knock out 10 burpees or go for a light jog after our meal, then we were probably sitting somewhere near the 80% mark. If we couldn't, then we'd probably pushed the limit.

I don't like feeling FULL anymore. I want to find fullness in other things - not food. I now focus on staying hydrated, getting my movement or workout in each day, and prioritizing proteins and veggies - but I purposefully and mindfully allow daily indulgences. If I wait until the weekend, then I find myself overdoing it. I don't need that. I need moderation - and that's from the school of freaking common sense. It's a simple idea, but it's not easy. I'm still practicing, but I get better and better each day.

Don't overthink this holiday. Don't overdue this holiday.

Back then I ate too much pumpkin pie. Now I will eat just enough pumpkin pie. And you can be sure that on Black Friday I'll let myself enjoy a leftover piece of pumpkin pie for breakfast while I sip my coffee and admire our Christmas tree.

Will I feel guilty? No. I don't eat pie for breakfast every day. I'm simply just allowing myself to live the life that I want. No restrictions. No guilt. And if I do it mindfully and moderately, there will be NO waistline consequences.

There is always so much to be thankful for, and not one day goes by that I'm not thankful for every single one of you. Thank you times a million.

Happy Thanksgiving!

xo

engage. empower. elevate.

Coach Fowler

 

 

Say Thank You

Thank You, script lettering Earlier this week I was walking onto the main floor of my gym getting ready to teach the evening boot camp class. When walking up toward the front of the room I saw a sweet friend, and I observed that she is noticeably losing fat. She and I have talked multiple times about her goals and challenges, so witnessing her personal success had me super pumped.

Me: “You look SO good!”

Her: “Yeah, but... <blah blah blah> and also <blah, blah, blah>”

Me: “Stop. Just say thank you. Say it with me now – Thaaaaaaaank youuuuuuuu. I meant what I said. You look amazing.”

We laughed about it, but it seriously made me start thinking about all of the times that we, especially females, are critical, self-judgmental, and we find difficulty in accepting compliments from others.

But WHY? Here’s why – we’re probably insecure about whatever it is that the compliment is directed toward.

“I love your new haircut!”  ------> “They cut more off than I wanted.”

“I love that top on you!” ------> “It fits a little tighter than I thought it would.”

“Dinner is so yummy tonight!” ------> “I should have cooked it a little less.”

AND here’s my favorite exchange between me and my wifey when she wears a particular pair of jeans that just happen to be my favorite on her:

Me: “Honey, your bootay looks so good in those jeans…” She’ll either criticize herself or look at me with defeat.

Me: “AHEM. I said your booty looks good in those jeans…”

Her: “Thank you.” – and then she usually walks away or changes the subject quickly.

I know it’s an insecurity of hers, but MY opinion of her is valid, and I say it with the most genuine and real expression. We have had numerous conversations about accepting compliments. It honestly makes her uncomfortable. She’d much rather compliment others.

And let’s discuss this - accepting a compliment is not boasting. It’s also not arrogant. It’s simply thanking someone for noticing whatever it is that they notice. Maybe you ARE insecure about your new haircut or your new shirt or the dinner that you cooked. Maybe. Maybe not. But if you find yourself being a “yeah, but” person, try showing an appreciation for the compliment being handed to you.

AND while you're at it - TRY THIS: Genuinely hand someone a compliment today. Observe their reaction. It’s fascinating how often people avoid compliments!

Some of us have the thankfulness down. And some of us need more practice in overcoming our insecurities so that we can fully appreciate those compliments when they come at us. But with some practice, maybe – just maybe you’ll start to really HEAR whatever it is that the person is trying to tell you. OWN it. ACCEPT it. EMBRACE it.

Find your best YOU.

xo

Engage. Empower. Elevate.

#EEEtribe

Coach Fowler

Oh – and hey, THANK YOU for reading! xoxo

Tweak It! 

So often we give up on an aspiring goal because that goal seems so elusive."It's going to take me forever to get to my goal weight.." "I had a terrible meal, so I might as well eat terrible for the rest of the day.."

"I haven't worked out in so long. If I start, I won't complete it.."

I've said all of this at some point before. Have you? These are all excuses - would you agree? For me, my ego got in the way most of the time.

We'll have a specific goal weight and so we start a diet and quit everything cold turkey and then BAM. Reality hits. Then the guilt sets in and we go back to what seems easy.

Tiny tweaks lead to big changes.

I'll say it again. Tiny tweaks lead to big changes.

Take your goal, whatever it is, and start with one thing at a time. Success takes preparation. Sports teams don't wake up and become dynasties on their own. They start with one practice at a time. One game at a time. One season at a time. It's that cliched journey that everybody speaks about.

Does exercise scare you? Start with parking a little further away from your grocery store entry. Spend 5 minutes doing jumping jacks. Take the stairs instead of the escalator.

Does food control you? Try small tweaks in your lifestyle.. Eliminate soda, and start drinking more water. Do you already drink a lot of water? Maybe look at your foods with added sugar and reduce the intake..

Start with an attainable goal - something you know you can achieve. Let that success drive you to set other attainable goals. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. Some of you may have had success in the all or nothing approach, and that is to be commended big time. For the vast majority of us, the all or nothing approach can sometimes send us down the overindulgent road.

I've had lots of success in an all or nothing approach, but once the event or goal was attained, I went down the ALL path and found myself in old eating habits. This doesn't make me weak. It makes me real. Even the most fit struggle with nutrition at times.

I became fearful of food. I'm eating healthier now than ever before in my life, and I'm still sometimes fearful of FOOD. It's ridiculous.

So I'm back at this point that I started with. Tiny tweaks lead to big changes. Moderation all of the time. I eat food that I know is good for my body, and I moderate those things that might be a little indulgent. BECAUSE wine. BECAUSE brick oven pizza. BECAUSE mimosas.

I cannot expect to be perfect all of the time, but I can adjust, I can moderate, and I will own my choices each and every day. No guilt. No excuses. TINY tweaks for future success.

What are you going to tweak this week?

Ready, Set, Move.

Summatime - my favorite time of the year. No, seriously. I'd much rather be sweating in July versus freezing in January. Sweating makes me feel like I'm accomplishing something. I always say "if you're not sweating, you're not doing it right..." Take that as you may. I'm always more active in the summer months, too. I love being active, so it's a win-win for me. Even in my not-so-active moments, I still love enjoying the outdoors.

See here? At least I'm exercising the mind, right?

https://instagram.com/p/4SCI4YGWdA/?taken-by=coachfowler

I was a softball coach way before I was a trainer. I'm always looking for a great read on leadership.

I read this book by Tony Dungy for my grad class called The Mentor Leader. I'm in love with all of it. There are so many amazing things in here that reaffirm the message that I constantly try to convey. Dungy uses a quote by Edmund Burke at the end of Chapter 5 that I want to discuss right now:

"Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.."

Pretty powerful, huh? Why do we always think that we have to immediately perfect whatever it is that we start? Why are our expectations that we have to be as good as the person next to us? It's usually an impossible task, but we sure die trying, don't we? And sometimes our frustration gets the best of us, we feel defeated, and then we quit.

No - don't do that.

Fast forward in this book to Chapter 8 where Dungy explicitly discusses the seven E's of enhancing potential. I had an awakening moment in this chapter. Can you possibly name at least three of those E's? You probably guessed them. They're the 3 E's that I use before I end each and every post: Engage, Empower, Elevate. It's like I stole them right out of this book (I didn't - I promise), but seriously! Enhancing potential. That's what I want. I want YOU, your friends, your family, your neighbors... I want you all to find your best version of YOU, and then along the way inspire others. It happens whether you know it or not. We have several opportunities every single day to make an impression on someone. Make it inspirational. Why not?

I talk about empowerment all of the time. I simply LOVE it. And I believe wholeheartedly in the mantra on this page. Engage with those around you. Empower them as much as you can. Elevate them to watch them soar. Fly high, baby...

So the book was pretty awesome, and I marked a billion quotes and plan to revisit them often. Let's take it back to that first quote that I shared - don't avoid something because you're not good at it. Whether it be lifting or running or yoga or WEED EATING... Do you know how much I suck at weed eating? But I still try. Weed eater - 57. Me - 0.

So get to movin'... whether it's movin' on a walk or movin' to a healthier eating plan or movin' to the sound of the music. Get to movin' and find your best version of you. Better yet, grab somebody's hand and let them accompany you on the journey. There is strength in numbers, right?

Ready, set, move... (and sweat!)

Engage. Empower. Elevate.

xo Coach Fowler

Avoid the Easy Road

IMG_4196 Earlier this week I was leaving my last summer graduate class, and as I hurriedly backed out of the parking lot in an attempt to make it on time for a training session, I felt a minor collision. YEP. I straight-up backed into a parked car. ANNOYING. I got out of my car and checked both my car and the parked car (in the rain), saw no damage, and hurried out of the parking lot to beat my group of girls to a planned training session.

I reached my destination and spent the next 45 minutes in a sweat-filled weight room. Once the training session was complete, I walked outside to put some things back into my car. By this time the rain had diminished some, and that’s when I noticed the visible damage to the back of my car.

OH NO! If I have this damage, then so does the other car. I was instantly tormented with guilt and decided to drive all the way back across the city to double check this parked car.

Luckily the car was still in the same parking spot. I pulled up right in front of the car and instantly noticed damage. Substantial? No, but if you’ve ever had body work done to a car, the smallest of damage causes the largest of bills.

I scrambled for a piece of scratch paper and added my name, my telephone number, and my policy number. I also offered a heartfelt dose of “I AM SO SORRY for backing into your car.”

It was well past noon, and as I was getting out of my car to place the note onto the windshield, a lady was walking in my direction. You know when you just get a feeling? Well, I had that feeling that this car belonged to her. I stepped out of the car with one foot, peered over the windshield, and I kindly asked if the car belonged to her. I was right. From there we exchanged info, and I left with a CLEAR conscience. I’m sure my insurance company will be calling me any day now.

So why am I telling you this story? It’s certainly not for recognition. I did the right thing, as we all should strive to do, right? The damage was obvious once I had a better vantage point, and I went back immediately to try to repair my mistake. I’ve been the victim of a hit and run accident before, and it TOTALLY sucked. I would never wish that upon anybody.

Here’s the takeaway…  How many times have we taken the easy road in any situation to avoid dealing with conflict? I had NUMEROUS crazy things running through my head while writing the “I’M SO SORRY” note – Will the driver of this car be upset with me?  Will they understand?  Will my insurance premiums rise? STOP IT ALREADY. None of those thoughts really mattered. I created my own anxiety in this situation. I made the mistake, and I was now put in a position to repair the things within my control.

I could have EASILY let my anxiety override all things and leave the scene without looking back. I don't think people ever purposely hit another car and then run away to be a complete jerk. Anxious thoughts build up in people's minds. They let fear win. And then they run.

Many times in life’s situations we decide to take the easy road for fear of conflict, feelings of guilt, avoiding mistakes, etc. Why do we react like this? In my opinion it’s much more admirable to face a situation head on with the right communication.  In my specific case, the best AND right communication was leaving a note with all of my information on it. It would have been an arduous task to try to find the driver in the 3 story building adjacent to the parking lot. Leaving a note was the best that I could do.

Have you taken the easy road on anything lately? How did it make you feel? When I’ve taken the easy road on specific situations in my past, I always had that “I could have done better” feeling afterward. Hindsight is a jerk. She’s always 20/20.

So let's do this - let's all avoid the easy road. Face your conflicts or your mistakes or your problems head on. Take that clichéd road-less-traveled. There’s more empowerment there. I promise.

xo

Engage. Empower. Elevate. #EEEtribe

Coach Fowler

Starting Over. It's Not Easy.

Last week while driving home after my early morning workout, the following thought came to me: “It feels like I’ve completely started over in the gym… and it’s not easy!” You see, I spent all of 2014 mastering box jumps, getting tangled in TRX straps, sprinting on pavement, slamming ropes, and all kinds of other bootcamp stuff. I appreciate all of this shiz – it’s where my true fitness transformation took place. It’s where I learned about nutrition and developed a physique that I’ve never previously acquired. It’s where I’ve met some of my very best friends - friends that push me, and they let (ahem, they expect) me to push right back. I’m even an instructor now. It’s what I love.

But just a few months ago I decided to aim a different direction and take my fitness to a whole different level. It was time to LIFT HEAVY SH*T. Now, let me tell you, this wasn’t anything new to me. I lifted with the football guys back in our old, rusty, high school weight room. I was extremely overweight, so my mentality was, “If I lift heavy, then my heavy body weight is validated.” Yeah, yeah… That was then. So lifting heavy? I LOVE IT. I’m strong. I’m capable. I’m motivated. I’m driven.

But WHOA! Getting back into a place where I lift heavy, learn new lifts, and speak some new language has been a humbling endeavor. I may be strong, but my form needs work on the deadlift. I can kill some chin-ups, but my kipping pull-ups take me back to my days as a big kid trying to make it across the monkey bars. It didn’t happen. Ever.

I’m improving, but not without some frustration along the way. I absolutely know that I’m capable of anything I put my mind to. And I know my snatch will be kickazz one day, so I’ll continue to work hard, practice patience, and set high expectations for myself along the way.

This made me question starting over in other areas in life, too. It’s never easy. Every single Sunday night I’m a wee bit sad that the weekend is ending. The week is starting over.

punch monday

Relationships end, and the sadness that comes with starting over with a new love can be crushing.  Maybe even joining a gym for the first time in a long time – it’s still starting over. And with that brings some intimidation and maybe even some guilt.

But the only thing that ever remains the same in life is change itself. Change will always occur whether we want it to or not. We constantly start over at something all of the time. So rather than letting the new challenges overwhelm us, approach them with an opportunity to see a fresh start, a clean slate, and a new goal to beat. Monday, you are mine!

Life is a constant pursuit. This doesn’t mean we run in circles. It means that we are constantly striving to find our best self. And if that means that I have to spend extra time working on my deadlift, or even more time trying to pull that power clean, then so be it. I’m getting stronger for it. And in the meantime, I’ll continue to be humbled along the way. Never content - always chasing a new goal.

Nobody said it would be easy. So punch Monday in the face and conquer your week!