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).

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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 Almost Had A 6 Pack

       

These pictures were taken just one year ago - February 2015. I was finishing up a strict nutrition regimen for a weight loss challenge, and I had dwindled down to a scale weight of 160LBS standing at 5'10". 

YOU GUYS - I had never, EVER seen this weight in my adult life, my teenage life, and honestly, I had already surpassed 160LBS by the time I was in 5th grade at 10 years old. 

In that picture I was focused. I was SO determined. And I was so proud of my "almost a 6 pack" abs. I had come a long way from 240 LBS. 

My weight loss journey has occurred in many phases - my college phase (losing the most weight), my running marathons phase (all throughout my 20s), and then my "ah-ha, nutrition matters" phase that started at age 30. 

I was obsessed in the pics above. I awoke every single day to step onto the scale, letting the number dictate how my day would go. I pinched my belly and frowned up my rolls. I constantly looked for reassurance from my wife on my physique. While her responses were always positive, my constant questioning for validation was a tad alarming. I was at my smallest weight since elementary school, and it still wasn't enough for me. 

Once the weigh-in was over for the weight loss challenge, I found myself addicted to the strictness and structure, but my willpower was wearing thin. When I allowed myself to indulge in sweets or less than healthy snacks, I completely and embarrassingly found myself bingeing on those foods. "I deserve this!" Following a binge, guilt would take over. It was a vicious cycle that left me terrified of food. 

I started seeing my extreme leanness disappear, and some of the weight started to appear back on the scale. 

Here's what I learned:

- for ME, strict regimens do not work. Yes, they yield physical results, but the mental ramifications are far too damaging afterward.  

- I'm thankful for the experience (hindsight is 20/20 lol), but going forward I know that mindset guidance is just as important as nutritional guidance. 

- there is certainly a place and a time for fat loss, but extreme measures do not serve ME well. 

- just because my willpower wears thin with strict regimens does not mean that I am any less disciplined. 

- white knuckling my way through nutritional methods leaves me feeling less powerful of my own decisions. 

- the faster I lose it, the faster it comes back.

- today I'm 175 LBS, and I'm wearing the same pant size that I did at that weigh-in 1 year ago. 

- not only am I physically stronger, but today I am mentally stronger in all aspects. 

Listen, last year I was chasing a number on the scale. I was VERY lean in those pictures, but I was NOT HAPPY. I was hungry. I was thirsty. I was living with a measuring cup in my purse. 

This year, I might be heavier on the scale (that I rarely EVER step on by the way), but my mindset has shifted. I have learned to love the skin that I am in, and I don't let a number define me. 

I don't have washboard abs, but I have strong quads, muscular arms, and a strong core to support my movement. I have the capability to grocery shop and know that while 90% of the shopping cart items are healthy, I'm not scared to allow the other 10%. 

I could easily look at those pictures above and want to be back in that lean body. But I don't. I strive for fat loss in a sustainable way, one that allows me to live my life outside of traveling Tupperware. I eat healthy. I exercise. I lift. But I'm not afraid of a cupcake. 

Today I feel powerful in the skin that I am in. I'm stronger than ever. I'm confident in my body and all that it does for me on the daily. Our bodies work SO hard for us!

No number on a scale can take any of that power away from you. It's yours for the taking! Go get it, 6 pack or not. 

Engage. Empower. Elevate. 

- coach fowler 

PS - yes, I constantly keep chapstick on my bathroom mirror. lolol 

         

The CliffsNotes On My Body

IMG_9293.jpg The other day I had to step on the scale, and if you know me or read my blogs, you're probably surprised that I still even have a scale in my house. I let go of "the number" on the scale a very long time ago, and I stopped letting the scale dictate my mood, meaning that I very RARELY weigh myself. I used the phrase "had to step on the scale" because I was actually inputting my baseline information into a spreadsheet to submit for the Strongest You Coaching Program that I'm participating in through Girls Gone Strong. Along with our weight, we also submitted body measurements and rated our levels of stress, sleep, energy, etc...

Surprisingly, I was pretty happy with the number. Happy in the fact that I endured the holidays eating chocolate and drinking wine and eating movie popcorn and STILL kept my body at the same weight that it was a few months prior. To be 100% honest, my pants fit better today than they did a few months ago. I actually stopped paying attention to the details in the food that I was eating. I stopped letting food control me. The only thing I really allowed myself to focus on was eating to 80% full, while prioritizing proteins and veggies first and still allowing myself indulgences along the way. That's it, folks. Moderation for the win! It seems to be working for ME.

So, back to the Strongest You (SY) Coaching Program that I'm involved in.

Yes, I am a certified personal trainer.

Yes, I've already been through a 60# weight loss transformation.

Yes, I write about fitness and nutrition.

So, why do I need to be coached? Well, coaches need coaches, too! I continuously strive to put myself in places where I am encouraged to grow and learn in the field of fitness and nutrition. I opted to join in on this group to get the very best mindset, nutrition, and fitness coaching tips from the lovely Jen Comas. There's a very diverse group of ladies within this SY Coaching group. We're all very different in our backgrounds and careers and life stories, but we all have one common underlying theme -  we're trying to find the best version of ourselves through mindset, body acceptance, nutritional habits, and fitness plans.

So just when I thought I was doing pretty good with self acceptance and body image and all of that jazz, Jen assigned a mindset challenge for us. The challenge was to watch a video featuring Kathryn Budig - well renowned yogi guru - as she hands out some honest talk about body image and her own experience in social media body shaming. It was, no doubt, life changing for me. Do you have 27 minutes? If so, click HERE to watch the video. It may resonate with you, and it may not. But for the love of all things regarding body image and self acceptance, find some quiet time, plug in some ear buds, and GO WATCH IT! Please. xo

Without giving the whole video away, here were a few of my favorite takeaways -

"I'm a girl that eats healthy, but I'm not afraid of cookies."

"We need to put weight into the words that we share."

"Jealousy will never serve you."

"The way we use our words is like casting a spell - they have power."

"When we step down from a challenge because we let our insecurities get the best of us, we give others permission to do the same." - WOW.

"I love this vessel, this vessel holds my soul."

"I call my body a meat suit."   ---> that might actually be my favorite line. EVER.

I don't want to give the entire video away because I think you owe it to yourself to watch it, but here's what happened at the very, very end. Kathryn challenged individuals to grab a sticky note to write something positive or something showing gratitude to a part of the body that needs some self love, then post the sticky note on that body part and share it with the world. We were encouraged (if we felt comfortable enough) to share this within our SY Coaching group.

At first I had a VERY difficult time trying to decide where to even put the sticky note. Topping out at 240# in high school left me with some battle scars. I am very uncomfortable with my softer belly. I dislike the stretch marks on my NON-giving-birth hips, I've always hated my breasts - they're never the same after a huge weight loss transformation. My feet have their own issues - I'm forced to get a pedicure every three weeks so that my lovely nail lady can take care of an ingrown toe nail problem on my right foot. I have a single hair that grows out of my chin! I am freckly and moley. I have dense muscles and it makes me feel uber "thick."

BUT WAIT.

The stretch marks on my body tell a story about my skin. They are a reminder of where I was, and where I've come in this weight loss transformation.

My feet? I may not have the best looking feet, but those feet allowed me to run for miles and miles in several half marathons and full marathons, and they were a catalyst to my weight loss journey. They've allowed me to see the world and all of its beauty. I should love these feet.

My freckles? They tell the story of my childhood and the years I spent in the sun playing on an old ball field that would eventually allow me to earn a college softball scholarship, another huge catalyst to my weight loss.

The chin hair? WHO EFFING CARES. Pluck it, be gone.

So, the assignment. {sigh}

I posted THIS photo in our group to complete our assignment. I chose to put the sticky note on my hips, and my self love phrase said "I love my hips. They don't lie."

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Posting that to our private group was a scary thing, and it's even MORE scary posting this for all of you guys to see in my online community. It feels less safe, and it feels vulnerable. Some responses that I've articulated in my head include:

"She's too big to be posting a picture like that."

"Needs some abs before posting this."

"That stomach? Gross"

"What stomach?"

"If she were truly overweight, then I would understand the hesitancy."

"She can't even relate to being big anymore."

"She's not lean enough."

"Put your clothes on."

HERE IS WHAT I FINALLY DECIDED. What anyone says about my body is NOT MY BUSINESS. 

MY body, the way it looks, the way it feels, the way it operates, and the things it accomplishes, AND HOW I FEEL ABOUT MY BODY - THAT's my business. 

I opted for my hips and the side profile in the picture for my SY Coaching group because I was terrified to show my belly. That wasn't very authentic, and that wasn't the takeaway from the video. So, here you go.

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I'm authentically doing this to show you that self image issues among individuals do not discriminate. Damaged self image issues come in small framed bodies, big framed bodies, skinny bodies, strong bodies, obese bodies, female bodies, male bodies, and the list goes on - WE are all capable of experiencing a lack of self love which contributes to a negative self image. AND THAT is a scary reality, folks. But we - you - can change that.

I'm not posting the picture to say "hey, look at me, look at me, look at me."

Just.. NO.

I'm posting the picture to say, "My name is Stephanie, and I am guilty of shaming my own body. I did it when I was obese, and I mentally still do it now -even at the best shape in my life. Come with me. JOIN ME, and let's change the conversation together."

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That video? It changed me just a little. I cried a few times (the whole time) watching it. I needed to see it, and my guess is that if you struggle at all with self image, you might need to see it, too.

It was a POWERFUL thing for me. I honestly practice self love at my gym with my clients, and I TRULY abide by it verbally, but mentally I have given myself absolute anguish. No more, though.

Physically, mentally, and spiritually - this vessel is all that I have. It works EXTREMELY hard for me every single day, and I will now return the favor with self love.

These are all of the CliffsNotes that go on my body. They are the story of my skin, and they are the proof that I have lived, loved, and endured.

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My words have power. I will choose words carefully to empower myself.

This was a game changer. Go give your body some love. You owe it to that meat suit! xo

Video link once again - right HERE. Please, PLEASE, please go watch it.

xo

Engage. Empower. Elevate.

#eeetribe

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

 

 

That Scale - What a Jerk!

Just a few short months ago I would wake up each morning to empty my bladder, strip completely naked, and hesitantly (and with a light foot) step onto the scale. I’m laughing RIGHT now. The light foot thing is so true. Be vewwy gentle as you step onto the scale – it helps, right? The scale number for the morning would then dictate my mindset for the day. Even if I slept in socks (which is weird for me and rarely happens), I would take them off because I somehow thought it would make a difference. I would even move the scale to the OTHER side of the room to see if it responded differently.

You know what else? I always had a pretty good idea beforehand if I were going to be up or down before I ever stepped on the scale. I had that ritual of standing naked in the mirror and sucking my stomach in – this quickly indicated whether it was going to be a “skinny day” or a “fat day”. If I felt skinny, my weight was usually down. If I felt fat, then my weight was usually up. I got to know my body pretty well.

THIS scenario might happen. “I’m up 3 pounds today.”

This would suggest for me to amplify my workout, or maybe just say EFF it and have a cheat day… I’m already up, right? Mental mindset is negative.

I would sometimes leave to go to my early morning workout only to come back home and step on AGAIN to see if the number might go down.

OR this scenario might happen instead. “BAM! I’m down 3 pounds today!”

Mental mindset is totally positive. It might trigger me to stay strict for the day to continue on with “weight loss” or it might allow me the freedom to cheat that day because I’m already down with weight.

NONSENSE.

Weight can be such a foolish thing. As a society we are completely controlled by weight categories, and for a vast majority of people it can be a toxic hamster wheel.

Here’s the condensed version of what I have learned on my latest FAT loss journey: Weight loss and fat loss are two completely different things. Weight loss can be determined by WATER. I can easily lose 5-7 pounds in one week by sweating excessively during my workouts and eliminating foods that cause bloat. But THAT doesn’t mean that my body is ready to downsize to a smaller pair of jeans. No ma’am.

At my lowest weight I was in the 150s, but a more attainable weight for me was right at 165. At this weight I wear a size 8. I will be completely honest with you when I tell you that I have no idea as to what I weigh right now. I am probably in the 170s, but I really, really don’t know. I stopped stepping onto the scale when I started lifting more heavy weights. BECAUSE muscle.

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I started to struggle when I saw my weight going up. I was still wearing the same size 8, but naturally those jeans were really fitting dem quads. Again, BECAUSE muscle.

I noticed that even though I was still at my best physique EVAH, the scale was not where I wanted it to be. There was a defining moment with me, myself, and I alone in my bedroom where I decided that I would stop weighing myself. I was happy with my body, and I didn’t need a number to define that.

I still wear the same size. I pay attention to how my clothes fit. I’m VERY in tune to how my body reacts to foods. As much as I love some doughy bread, it doesn’t serve my body well. And honestly, neither does ice cream.

My body is changing. My jeans hug my quads. BECAUSE quadzilla, right? But I like it. I have to move up to a large in any swanky shirt that I buy because the mediums are too small for my DELTS. Seriously.

But I’ve gained body acceptance and confidence. And the scale was taking that away from me each and every day. I’m still getting stronger. I’m still working on physique and fat loss. But I don’t need a scale to measure those things.

Now don't get me wrong. The scale CAN be a tool used to measure a fat loss journey. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing. But I was using it as an obsessive tool to gauge my daily worth, and that wasn’t right for ME. Not anymore.

This took some practice, and it took a shift in my mindset about weight. If you're engaging in some of these toxic activities that dictate your daily worth all due to your WEIGHT, then you may want to consider ditching your scale, too!

So here’s to you, scale. You’re a jerk. I don’t need you. Okay BYE!

Engage. Empower. Elevate #EEEtribe

xo

Coach Fowler