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.

 

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

 

 

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."

cliffsnotes of my body II.jpg

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.

img_1075

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.

cliffsnotes of my body III.jpg

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

 

Don’t Drop the Cake in 2016

7U6B9065B.jpg A year or so ago I found myself running extremely behind as I was driving through some crazy traffic to get to work on time. Before I owned (em)POWERHOUSE Gym, I trained boot camp classes in the early morning hours and then served as a high school math teacher and softball coach for my “day job". The specific vehicle I was behind was moving at a considerably slower pace than I needed to be traveling in order to make it to work on time. Any teacher out there knows that it’s not easy to just hit the ground running, but that’s what my morning was about to look like if this guy didn't push the pedal to the metal. DIDN’T THIS GUY KNOW THAT HE WAS MAKING ME LATE?

I look back and laugh at that situation.

Maybe two weeks following this incident I was driving again, probably on the exact same highway, but THIS time I was driving much more careful and slower than normal because I was hauling a birthday cake in my backseat. You guys know exactly what that’s like –be it hauling a cake or transporting your dogs or traveling with a new bouquet of flowers – you have to be wicked careful or else the cake will drop, the dogs will slide all over the backseat, or your flowers will spill over and the leaking vase will quickly make a mess.

So I mean it when I say that I was driving SLOW to keep the backseat in order so not to mess up this pretty little birthday cake. But when I looked into my rear view mirror, a lifted truck was riding my bumper, and the car language (you know, like body language) was totally not cool. I could tell the guy was annoyed as I slowly took the curve around to merge onto the other highway, and my suspicions were right-on as he hightailed it past me once he got the opportunity. Geez. DIDN’T HE KNOW THAT I WAS HAULING A CAKE?

I’m laughing again. Are you getting my point here? In the first scenario – of course the slower car didn’t know that I was in a hurry. And of course it wasn’t the slower car’s fault that I was going to be late. IT WAS MY FAULT. I was the sole reason that I was going to be late. His slower driving status wasn’t helping my case, but if we get down to it, it was my own fault for not leaving my house when I needed to – not his. Same response goes for the guy riding my bumper. He had no idea that I was hauling a birthday cake, and maybe if he had he’d have cooled his temper a bit. Maybe, maybe not.

I want to illustrate to you that people navigate through their operating systems based on past experiences or current circumstances. Maybe the slower driver is a safe driver because he’s been a victim of a frightening car crash. Or even worse - MAYBE he’s lost a loved one in a car crash. Maybe THAT’S why he drives a little slower than I do. Maybe the what-seemed-to-be angry, faster driver was on his way to an emergency situation. Maybe he needed to be moving faster than I was allowing him.

After all of this happened, I found myself a little less judgmental on the roads. Now, let me be clear, there are still some pretty senseless drivers and there are always exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, people are inherently GOOD and are merely reacting to their current situation. When someone is driving slower than I’d like, I imagine they’re probably hauling some precious cargo in their vehicle. And for the opposite, I imagine they’re in a hurry to a pretty important situation. Neither of those things may be true, but at least it's a more peaceful, less stressful reaction.

Give a little grace in life’s day-to-day scenarios.

I think these scenarios go for those in the fitness industry, too. People are quick to judge others that aren’t doing things like us. Whether you’re a runner or a crossfitter or a powerlifter or a swimmer or a lover of the elliptical – it’s not our place to say that our way is the best way. Because is it really? Do we know that OUR way is the BEST way for Jane Doe? No, we don’t.

-Maybe Jane Doe stays at the gym elliptical because it doesn’t hurt her knees and she enjoys the quiet time to herself. I loathe the elliptical, but if Jane likes it and gets the results that she wants, then GO, JANE, GO!

-Maybe Jane Doe stays with her running group because she lost a lot of weight when training to run, and hitting the pavement makes her feel good. Get your 26.2, baby! I got mine!

-Maybe Jane Doe sits at home and chooses not to work out because she’s terrified of stepping into a gym for fear of embarrassment. I’ve personally always had the confidence to step inside of the gym, but I’ve certainly felt self-conscious or not good enough in plenty of athletic or fitness scenarios in my lifetime. It's a valid emotion.

Give grace. People operate based on past experiences and current situations. Once I truly understood this concept, even the communication piece in my marriage became much clearer to me. This notion goes for everything. Every. Thing.

For the most part, people engage in fitness activities that they enjoy. Do I think that some things are more effective than others? Certainly. But maybe my goals differ from others’ goals. And that’s fantastic, too. It’s important that people continue to inspire and continue to educate.

Give grace in the coming year. And for what it’s worth, don’t drop the cake in 2016 – even IF somebody is riding your bumper.

engage. empower. elevate.

#eeetribe

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

 

 

You Can Stay The Healthy Course Even When Your Spouse Isn't On Board. 

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I love kale and spinach and then more kale and more spinach. I also love brussel sprouts and zucchini and broccoli and anything else GREEN. I am not a picky eater, which is probably a major contributing factor to my obesity while in high school. I genuinely like all kinds of food. And I never had trouble finishing any meals. "A happy plate is a clean plate." Anybody else grow up hearing that?

My wife, on the other hand, has a strong aversion to most healthy foods. She does like green beans, but I think the word "like" might be slightly exaggerated. I think it's just the one veggie that she tolerates. Oh, and glazed carrots. But those don't really count. Hello, brown sugar.

 

 

Mit grew up on a ranch in northwest Oklahoma. She's talked about meal habits and has expressed that it wasn't uncommon to sit down to "supper" and happily enjoy a dinner with grass-fed protein and 3 sides of starch - corn, mashed potatoes, and bread. This is NOT a foreign concept to me either. I remember the days of eating dinner and enjoying that soft, white, sliced bread and smothering butter on top of it. Sometimes it was 2 or 3 slices. And this was just a supplement to dinner. LAWD help my high school waist line. But the main difference is that I've always liked veggies. ALL THE VEGGIES. She avoided them like the plague at each meal.

So let's fast forward to now. I'm not here to judge eating habits or condemn any foods. That's not my job. But I DO want to express to you that you CAN keep healthy habits even if your significant other doesn't enjoy the same foods.

First off, when I'm cooking a meal at home, 80% of the time I cook the same protein for each of us. The other 20% is when I cook fish. She no likey seafood. Bummer. But when I cook veggies, I get really creative and always cook some sort of varied veggies for myself. Mit - she always gets green beans. Always. So this usually means I'm cooking something extra, or sometimes I might make two completely different meals. It might sound like a headache, but I'm honestly okay with it. I want her to enjoy her food and me enjoy mine.

When it comes to eating at restaurants, if eating healthy is your goal, then stay the course. We sometimes allow ourselves permission to make bad decisions due to our surroundings. And let me be clear, if you decide to indulge in something not so healthy, then by all means OWN IT and move on. But if you want healthy, opt for healthy, OWN IT, and move on.

Here are a few scenarios of what restaurant ordering might look like for us:

Mit orders a cheeseburger plain with mustard and ketchup. I order a Cobb salad.

Mit orders a cheeseburger plain with mustard and ketchup. (She's pretty consistent). I order a cheeseburger, no bun but wrapped in extra lettuce.

Mit orders chicken and waffles. I ORDER CHICKEN AND WAFFLES. I will not live in a world where I don't allow myself to indulge in chicken and waffles every once in a while. That's just absurd. AMIRIGHT? I'm health conscious, but LIFE.

 

Let me also defend my wife and tell you that she certainly has appeased me and will try nearly everything I put in front of her. She strives to eat healthier, but she does this for herself, not for me. She also knows that I opt for healthy meals majority of the time, and she is so very supportive of my journey - even at my most extreme and restrictive times. She never comments on my decisions in any negative manner and vice versa. In my humble opinion, resentment occurs when we judge our spouse for their eating habits. Nobody wants to hear, "don't you think you've had enough of those chips?" Ouch.

Now, would it be easier if Mit enjoyed the same healthy foods that I do? Of course! I'd be making big, BIG salads every single night. ALL THE VEGGIES! But here's what I've learned: There is strength in our differences, and my ability to work around those differences has taught me to demonstrate more discipline. That's not a bad thing.

I obviously like to talk about healthy foods BECAUSE yum. But if your spouse isn't on that same page, don't let THAT be the excuse that keeps you from healthier options for yourself - if that's your goal. 

What are some differences that you and your spouse have when it comes to choosing meals?

Engage. Empower. Elevate. #EEEtribe 

xo

Coach Fowler

Comparison is Crap.

Last week I was nearing the end of a group workout, and as I was finishing a sprint to walk back inside for the remainder of the workout, I turned around to find my friend Shamon sitting on the curb outside. My first reaction was that she was hurt, and as I jogged over to her I immediately saw big alligator tears. Me: “Are you okay?”

She struggled to respond through the tears…

Shamon: “I can’t keep up with you guys. I’m not good enough.”

Oh no. SHE will finish. SHE is capable. SHE is enough. I, along with two other lovelies, grabbed her by the hand, pulled her up from the curb, and together we stayed outside to finish the workout. This gesture was nothing extraordinary in my mind – I simply stayed with her to let her know that she could make it to the end. AND SHE DID. Rather than comparing her speed to others, we focused on HER and HER alone, and she finished with a smile on her face. And tears. And more smiles. And more tears.

The response from Shamon, though, has been pretty remarkable. The next day she showed up with the most amazing thank-you card jam packed with warm, heartfelt, loving words. I ugly cried a time or two, and I’ve read it several times over and over in the last week. That simple moment (all of 3 minutes) was so impactful for two main reasons:

1- I sought out to prove to her that she was capable of finishing. AND SHE DID.

2- Her previous insecurity of COMPARISON has greatly diminished.

Comparison. Why do we all compare our personal progress to the progress of others around us? We compare houses and cars and physique and fitness capability. The list is endless. We mindlessly set ourselves into a trap of feeling that we’re not good enough when we constantly compare ourselves to other people. I see Shamon work hard every single day, whether I'm working out next to her or whether I'm training her in class. She’s currently on her very own weight loss journey. That particular day she was finishing last and struggling to keep up with the crowd, and naturally she became discouraged and wanted to give up. I’m a high school teacher and a coach, and motivating others is something that drives me. But little did I know that this particular gesture would offer such a significant return on investment.

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I AM INSPIRED. I’m inspired to keep showing others that they, too, are capable of achieving anything they want. We have got to take our comparison tendencies and throw ‘em out! And look, I understand that it’s natural to compare progress. If I can do 5 chin-ups and the gal next to me can do 10 – the very act of comparison is right in front of my face. BUT – it’s what I choose to DO with that comparison that will either have a positive or negative effect on my mental mindset. If I tell myself that she’s better than I am because she can do more chin-ups than me, then I’ve set myself up for disappointment. RATHER, how about I let that number motivate me to work harder so that I can reach 10 pull-ups, too? That’s empowerment. That’s how it’s done.

If the act of comparing yourself to others keeps you from joining a gym, STOP IT. Join today.

If the act of comparing yourself to others keeps you from putting on a pair of shorts due to cellulite, STOP IT.  Wear ‘em today.

If the act of comparing yourself to others keeps you from sitting at a pool with your friends, STOP IT. Grab your sunblock and go!

These things take much practice. We've got to get to a point where we are okay with ourselves and the skin that we're in. That doesn't mean that you stop setting goals or become complacent. It just means that you LOVE and ACCEPT yourself, and the result of THAT yields confidence. When you're confident in yourself, comparison will eventually fade away. When you're confident, results start happening.

Comparison is crap. It hinders our abilities and mistreats our confidence. Possessing confidence will generate wings that help you SOAR. Fly high, baby – and leave that comparison at the door.

Engage. Empower. Elevate.  #EEEtribe

xo

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

Sisterhood. Getcha Some.

beach radiance “Better not let me catch your azz!” This is a phrase you might hear me yell to my girlfriends during any given workout sesh. They love it. We’ve learned how to motivate one another to bring out our best efforts during each workout. I love them. THEY make me better. To me, they embody sisterhood. The term sisterhood hasn’t really ever been on my radar. This word was mentioned numerous times during my trip to Venice Beach for the 2015 Radiance Retreat this past March 2015. I discovered the Radiance Retreat while #deepinthecreep one day on Neghar Fonooni’s Instagram account. (If you don’t already follow her, I truly believe you are missing out.) While perusing Neghar’s older photos I came across a picture of her alongside Jill Coleman and Jen Sinkler, and I followed the link under the photo to learn more about this so-called Radiance Retreat.

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Aren't they just lovely? 

Click. I instantly fell in love with what the Radiance Retreat was all about and desperately wanted to attend, but I delayed booking my flight because of too many intimidating (and now laughable) factors. I wasn't yet a certified trainer, nor did I (at the time) have my own blog, my own business, or anything of the sorts. But I had a story. And the story embraced a desire to pursue a career in the fitness industry after a successful body transformation. I needed this trip for confidence. I needed this trip for clarity. Screw it. I’m going. The registration deadline had already passed by the end of January, so I sent a message to the 3 lovelies asking if there were room for just one more attendee. Jen Sinkler e-mailed me back almost immediately. Flight booked. Here. We. Go. Now fast forward to my flight en route to LAX: I LOVE traveling. I also value traveling alone. There’s something so empowering about independently boarding a flight for a solo adventure. In addition to my excitement for the retreat, I was also admittedly terrified beyond belief. I was stepping way outside of my comfort zone, and saying that I felt inadequate among the other attendees is a complete understatement. My balcony view for the weekend was pretty incredible, and the experiences that I encountered throughout the weekend were invaluable to me and my future.

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We had the opportunity to hear Neghar, Jill, and Jen speak about so many different things throughout the entire weekend, but the one thing that resonated with me the most was the power of sisterhood. Fifty (50!) vibrant women from all walks of life and various states and countries all united in a cozy room to cuss, discuss, and share fitness related ideas, advice, goals, and life experiences from one another. From here we meditated on the beach, we set goals within our newly formed accountability groups, and then we sweat it out together through yoga on the beach with Neghar, metabolic effects workouts with Jill, and lifting heavy shiz with Jen. This was happening.

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Sisterhood. To me it means complete, unfiltered support of one another. And that's exactly what the Radiance Retreat gave me. In an environment where I could have felt as if I didn't belong, as if I wasn't as far ahead as others in the game, or as if everybody were out of my league - instead I was pushed to follow my heart and start getting sh*t done. #GSD Why not? I can't even begin to explain to you how empowering this was for me. At some point in your life you have probably been directly involved with a group of females where jealousy was prevalent, and rather than supporting one another, "she" was constantly trying to stay one step in front of "her". Competition at its finest, right? And while I can say that I think competition can be completely badazz, there really is a healthy way to compete with others. But secretly hoping that others fail so that you can get ahead - that's NOT healthy competition. At the Radiance Retreat success was repeatedly celebrated. #sisterhood While working out with my girls at home success is encouraged AND expected from one another. #sisterhood Jen Sinkler saying "Hop on my back!" for a picture. THAT'S sisterhoodI'll celebrate that!

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Best. Picture. Ever.

I already knew that I had an UNMATCHED amount of support through friends, through my family, and through my sweet wife back home in Oklahoma. But I had no idea that I would receive that same amount of encouragement from 50 beautiful women that hardly even knew me. We were all there to better ourselves, but the incredible part to that is that each and every one of us completely invested in one another, and that made for an empowering weekend. Oh. And mimosas. :) But seriously.. Do you have a group of women that cheer for you when you succeed?  Do YOU cheer for them when they succeed? I sure hope so, because everybody deserves it.  Me. You. And all the ladies out there. We are in this thing together. Don't forget that. Engage. Empower. Elevate. #EEE xo Coach Fowler P.S. (You REALLY, really should follow Neghar, Jill, and Jen! They've undoubtedly helped pave my path ahead. And while you're at it, look up the lovely Molly Galbraith, too!

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That Time I Ate 2 Big Macs...

I started wearing plus-sized clothing in elementary school. At 12 years old I owned my first pair of “goal jeans”. I had always halfway joked that I was “big boned”, but at 238lbs during my senior in high school it was pretty evident that I was much more than thick. I was obese. I was hopeless. And I commonly used food as an emotional crutch. FullSizeRender

I remember the day that I ordered 2 Big Mac hamburgers and a biggie-sized fry, accompanied by a large sugary coke to wash it all down. I ate every single bite of that gargantuan meal, and afterward I had even bragged that I was capable of consuming that much.  Thinking back to a moment like that makes me so sad for my teenage self.

My eating habits were completely reckless throughout my youth. I ate senselessly a lot of the time. I would regularly order a fast food meal on-the-go and then discreetly add a biscuit to my breakfast meal or an additional burger to my lunch/dinner meal. This meant that I could gorge the extra item in private and consume the acceptable amount in front of others. I engaged in these eating rituals frequently.

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There are no horrific events that happened to me as a child that can explain why food was my emotional crutch. I like food - plain and simple.  I love food, actually. And for a long time I was completely obsessed with eating. Though my food obsession took over my obese physique, I was still super active in sports, specifically fast-pitch softball. It would eventually secure me a college scholarship that punched my one way ticket outta town. I was headed to Texas, y’all!

I was always an athlete. Physical activity never really bothered me, but once I walked onto my college campus my activity level was forever changed. I discovered monster miles, distance sprints, and other scary, scary biz. I was an overweight kid living 4 hours away from my small hometown in Oklahoma. I had previously only lifted some heavy weights with the high school football guys. I was in unfamiliar territory in fitness land. The obvious change in my everyday activity helped me drop nearly 40lbs my freshman year of college. Without a doubt, my college experience truly changed my life for the better.

I still devoured Whataburger taquitos and participated with my college softball team in pizza-eating contests at the local Cici’s Pizza (hey, the owner loved us!), but I was still losing weight. I didn’t realize it at the time, but self-confidence was making a cameo into my everyday life.

Post college I took up marathon running. I completed several half marathons and three full marathons, and I adopted the mentality of “I run so that I can eat whatever I want!” I was running 26.2 miles at 185lbs and inhaling pastas and bagels and carb-loading, oh my! From there and all throughout my twenties I hovered between the 180lb-200lb weight range. When I wasn’t training for a long run, I was in between cycles of calorie deficits to hit a “goal weight”, whatever that meant. I once remember trying to stay under 1200 calories, and if that included a small chocolate bar, then so be it. Hey, it fit within my calorie range. Right? UGH. I was so naive. I was still proud of my accomplishments. Running marathons had changed my body. I was never ripped, but running gave me a longer, more lean look.

At age 30 I had gotten down to my lowest weight at 172lbs, but I achieved this with major restriction and deprivation. Even at my skinniest to-date weight, I was still a flabby skinny.

In 2014 I joined a boot camp where box jumps, push-ups, rope slams, and chin-ups became an everyday addiction for me. I soon participated in a couple of weight loss challenges, and during those challenges I discovered that nutrition is where physique can be found.  YOU GUYS.  I was experiencing results that I had never before envisioned. I was becoming somebody that I had always wanted to be. I was wearing a single digit pant size. My current size 8 is much smaller than my 4th grade size 14 or my 12th grade size 20. I still don’t think I’ll ever escape a size large top, though.  Because BICEPS. My current weight? No idea. Seriously! I stopped stepping onto the scale when I started lifting heavy weights. Because MUSCLES. I now remain focused on the way my clothes fit my body.

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I remember coming home from a workout early one morning, and as I was making my morning coffee my emotions completely took over. I stood alone in my kitchen bawling, absolutely overcome with gratitude for where I was at that very moment in my life, both physically and mentally.

I’m a completely different person today. I wish that I could go back to the teenage me and let her know that life does get better. I wish I could tell her that she’ll one day radiate confidence that will allow her to help others along their way throughout their own fitness journey. I wish I could show her that she would one day work as a trainer motivating those around her.

If I tell you that I am resolved of my food obsession I would be lying to you. It’s something that I still cope with occasionally. Sometimes food isn’t a big deal to me, but other days I spend way too much mental energy on food. Some days I’m terrified of it. Isn't that crazy? I just never want to go back to where I was before. Do I ever order two Big Macs?  No! My lifestyle has completely changed, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t overdosed on whole almonds at some point in my recent past. Oops. I strive to make food choices consisting of proteins and lots of veggies. Do I indulge in yummies from time to time? Of course I do. But I moderate. I pay attention. I listen to my body. I now know the difference between weight loss and fat loss. Fat-be-gone!

My point here in this story? It’s never too late to start your journey. NEVAH! I own my journey, and I’m willing to put it out there to show you that anything is possible. You are worth it. You deserve to discover your very best version of yourself, and only you get to decide what that looks like.

Nothing happens instantaneously, but things happen with consistency. If I can do it, then so can you - I promise.

Let’s get to work. Let’s engage, empower, and elevate. #EEE

You ready?

xo

Coach Fowler

Leaky Workouts. Learn More About Urinary Incontinence Here.

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Months ago I was coaching my morning boot camp class when I overheard a woman express that she couldn't perform some of the exercises "because I pee a little every time..." Unfortunately this happens more than we think, or even more than we'd like to personally admit. I'm thankfully not a victim of the workout pees, but I know plenty of women - young, middle-aged, or older - that suffer from a leaky workout. Hey, call it what it is. Right?

My friend Jen Sinkler posted a great article some time back about urinary incontinence.  In the article she interviews Ann Wendel, PT, ATC, CMTPT, founder of Prana Physical Therapy in Alexandria, VA about the ways to help identify the causes of urinary incontinence and the several ways you can work to prevent it.

Lots of great info in this article.  To read more from Jen's article, click here!

xo

Coach Fowler