pilates

My Top 5 Ab Exercises To Get Rid of that Jiggle in Your Belly that Makes You Embarrassed to Wear a Bikini

My Top 5 Ab Exercises To Get Rid of that Jiggle in Your Belly that Makes You Embarrassed to Wear a Bikini

Ugghhh I want flatter abs. Dang I had them before I had Grace and as soon as she came out it was like nope, abs are a thing of the past. I felt ashamed about it. I mean I’m in the freaking fitness industry after all, I’m a walking billboard for the exercises I practice and this is how I look without a shirt? No thanks.

Do You Love Yourself?

I was talking to a friend recently who didn’t know that much about my history. She didn’t know about my foot, or the litany of other injuries I had, and when I started delving into things she said “damn girl, you’ve got a lot of stuff wrong with you, how did you get to that point?” 

I could go through the specific exercises that caused injury, you know the practicality of it, like what I was doing at the time that caused the injury. But I feel like that would take too long. Because here’s the thing: how I did all the things doesn’t really matter, all of my major injuries all happened in succession in a few years directly following my foot and there was an undercurrent of commonality amongst all of them. I didn’t love myself.

That’s a really hard thing for me to right. I know I didn’t though. I thought I could just push my body to the point of injury because I had already been through worse, so nothing else could be as bad right? It didn’t matter that I was young and had my whole life ahead of me (and totally wasn’t thinking about how chronic pain would look as a longevity issue). I didn’t love myself enough to be compassionate to myself. 

When I coach people, I notice the same thing. We are more often than not cruel to ourselves. We very rarely show ourselves the love that we need in order to experience the growth we’re seeking. I know there’s a lot of contributing factors to mindsets like this, I know because I know what’s contributed in my life to my own mindset and I know now how important it is to do the work to shut that inner critic up.

It’s not an overnight process either. You have to first recognize the negative things that are even coming through in your thought process before you can begin the process of changing anything. Once you recognize what those thoughts tend to be, you have to do your due diligence to replace those negative thoughts with something more positive, and then you have to KEEP DOING IT. Which is easier than it sounds.

Because at first, you’re going to go back to the negative thoughts quickly and you might not even find anything positive to say to yourself because the negative thoughts are such an easy fall back. It’s muscle memory, your brain as a muscle is geared towards a certain line of thought and if you are used to telling yourself how much you suck or some variation of that, then that’s where your mind is going to go.

You have to keep at it. You have to keep shoving those positive thoughts into your conscious train of thought until you think you’re going to explode into rainbows and sunshine. And then you do it again, you do it more, you just keep at it.

Now when I exercise the positive thoughts are like second nature to me. Whenever something gets hard, whenever I want to quit, I have certain things I instantly go to in my head to push through whatever I’m doing. 

If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking well dang I have nothing positive to tell myself. Which I get because if you’ve never done this before it is super weird, we’re not accustomed to celebrating our victories.

The easiest way that I got into the groove of celebrating my achievements was by writing them down. Seriously. I sat down with my journal and I wrote down 100 things I have achieved throughout my life. From the little things like learning how to French braid my hair, to the big things like scholarships, graduating college, learning how to drive.

Celebrate all your victories and relish in the fact that you are totally unique. One of one. Then the next time you’re working towards your goals in a workout or in the board room, you’ll find how much easier it is to show yourself the love you deserve.

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I Gotta Check My Ego

I’ve been thinking a whole lot lately about ego. I mean obviously if you read the last blog post about doing what you need verses what you want, ego goes pretty strongly with that right? Because doing what your body needs might mean putting your ego aside. It might also mean actively stopping the comparison game that I know we all play when it comes to getting healthy. I get it, I share these experiences I have and give these opinions because I’ve been there.

Being in the fitness industry, ego can get in the way so easily and so quickly as can the comparison disease. There’s this constant drive to look amazing, be rocking ALL the muscles, be able to pull off all the tight clothes, be stronger or faster or leaner than the person next to you. Really all that leads to is this dissociative state of reality.

Your ego becomes your inner bully constantly trying to push you to where it thinks you should be instead of embracing the journey you’re currently on.

Case in point: when I was cleared by my doctor post delivery to start practicing Pilates again, I went into the studio, by myself just to see where my body was at. I remember trying to do a roll up (if you don’t know, it’s an ab exercise) and I could NOT DO IT. AT ALL. Instead of taking a deep breath and giving myself credit for even being in such an amazing state of health that my doctor COULD clear me 4 weeks post c-section for exercise, I thought “fuck I’m gonna have to find another job.” No joke. I had NO sympathy for myself. My ego was the sole operator, telling me that I needed to be in a certain place, to be able to perform a certain way when I was only a month post partum, not to mention post major abdominal surgery.

You know what I figured out though? I didn’t need to be ashamed at where I was on my journey because I wasn’t alone. In fact, the women I trained loved me sharing my journey back to my “Pilates shape” because it was more relatable to them than the women who just seem to bounce back post baby with zero issues whatsoever.

That struggle is what binds us because it draws commonalities and also shows us what we’re capable of accomplishing. While that potential for accomplishment can be completely limitless, we have to check our ego in order to make it happen. That ego, that internal bully is going to be the first thing to give you a hard time whenever you try to make a positive change for yourself. Like that saying “you are your own toughest critic”, that ego gets in the way of progress for whatever reason, and ultimately your end goals that are completely attainable end up suffering.

I know you can do it because I’ve done it too and I know how much internal grit it takes to ignore that critic, that bully, that mean girl that always wants to knock you down a peg.

So now whenever that internal bully comes up in my head and starts telling me all my failings, not only do I tell her to sit down and shut up, but I also remind myself of 10 of my accomplishments. Small ones, big ones, it really doesn’t matter. I put where I think I should be aside and embrace where I’m at, embrace that I’m on a journey and it’s only going to get better from here.

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The Practical Side of Healthy Living

Ok let’s get off of this mindset stuff for a hot second. I definitely realize the importance of it. Don’t get me wrong, when people talk about achieving healthy living as a lifestyle choice, mindset is the majority of the battle. It seems insignificant but really it’s huge. Because if your mind isn’t right, you’re not going to feel ok with making the decision to have self-care, you won’t feel right exercising, and it’ll be way easier to fall into the excuses trap then it will be to do the work.

I’m sure we’ll get back to that topic soon. I’m already thinking of stuff while I write this post in fact.

But I wanted this post to be more about the practicality of healthy living. I think a lot of people think that having a healthy lifestyle is super hard, it’s expensive or really time consuming. They’re comparing their journey unfairly to the famous person or influencer in social media who has a personal trainer coming to their house on the daily, and has a private chef. For the majority of the population, this isn’t how healthy living gets achieved. I mean girl if your goal is to have a private chef, I’m SO here for that. In fact, just plan on inviting me over for dinner ok?

I’m all about how it will work from a logistical standpoint, but I’m like that with most of my life. When you get hurt and you’re wheel chair bound, you begin to look at life like the game of Tetris. Like how are all these things going to fit together? How will I move through this activity to the next, what will I need, that sort of thing. 

That line of thinking for me was only reinforced when I had a baby and had to think about all the things that could happen once we left the house. It’s like contingency plans on contingency plans, constantly trying to mitigate any risk or pain in the ass complicated situation you can come up with.

Obviously I’m a planner as a result and that extends to healthy living. I can’t second guess this stuff. Partly because I don’t have the time and partly because I know if I don’t have a plan, that’s when the bad decisions are made. So I plan. Not crazy but I definitely do plan.

Part of that means planning out what my family will have for dinner during the week. So ya that does mean taking an hour of my time, usually while I watch Grey’s Anatomy (you’re welcome), and coming up with recipes, or taking note of recipes I want to cook that week and making the corresponding grocery list from there. I’ve taken it a step further recently to include what snacks we will be having as well, and including those ingredients on my list. It just takes the thought out of it. I know what options I have for dinner, sometimes I pre-plan to the day if I know I’ll be out at night, and I know I have everything I need already in my house. 

The other thing I plan are my workouts. This is a little more challenging because some of my workouts are planning for classes I teach or people I train privately, and some workouts are for my head more than my body (like yoga), and some workouts are just to sweat. But even then I know what is going to happen each day for that workout and I have it in my calendar. I have the time blocked out and I also have a back up workout just in case my original plan doesn’t work out. Working out because it happens more often than me going grocery shopping needs more options, more flexibility and more patience on my part. Because life is going to happen and things will change, but ultimately if I can get my workout handled at some point during the day, then all is good.

I’m not the type to stress buying this thing or that, or for a person to do this kind of exercise or that, but I do believe that we all deserve to feel our best. If taking an hour out of your day once a week and doing those things means I’ll feel better in the long run then for me, it’s an hour well spent.

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I'm Gonna Go There

Ok I’m going to go there. Some of you might not like this one, so fair warning with it, but I feel like with all I talk in regards to healthy living and balance, it’s worth addressing. Obviously I’m a huge proponent in having a coach to help support you and guide you when it comes to meeting the goals you’ve set for yourself in regards to healthy living. Maybe it is a balance issue, maybe you’re wanting to lose weight, whatever your end game is, a coach is for sure beneficial. A coach is 1000% (yes there’s an extra zero there) that person who can look at your life and tell you where to make changes so you can get the results you’re craving. A coach is that outside person who can call you on your bullshit as well. Because we all have excuses that hold us back. Coaches are invaluable, shoot I have a coach and will always have a coach. I need my person to tell me when I’m full of it, but also cheer me on when I do something well.

Here’s the thing though: even with a coach, at the end of the day girl it’s all on you. It’s still ultimately your choice as far as what you are going to do to get better. I’ve had this tremendous opportunity in my life to be a coach to all kinds of people. I’ve had the opportunity to work with all kinds of injuries, all different stages of life, all different goals and many different priorities. It’s been the best experience of my life to play a role in strengthening the individuals around me.

But ultimately it’s not even me doing anything. I mean obviously I have tools in my tool box that you don’t have, that’s just the nature of the beast. I’ll share everything I have, every tool, every piece of knowledge I’ve gained over all these years of experience. I’m more than happy to pay all of this forward. I mean after all, I’m doing nothing if I’m sitting on all of this knowledge and not sharing it with the people around me.  

Even then, it’s still all on you. Because if you’re not willing to show up for yourself, if you’re not willing to commit to yourself, then nothing will change. You won’t see anything improve or have any kind of transformation because you haven’t taken any action. It’s not some like magical thing that will just happen through osmosis. You still have to do the work.

A lot of the time doing the work is more than just doing the exercises and eating well. Doing the work is understanding what’s holding you back from taking action in the first place. It’s scary to learn about that aspect of yourself. To learn what your excuses are and why you have them in the first place, and then work through them. I mean dang girl, it can for sure take you to some unexplored areas of your mind but in the end it’s worth it.

In the end, it makes doing the work a whole hell of a lot easier. It makes taking action towards achieving your goals that much simpler. The work won’t seem as daunting, your coach won’t seem as annoying, and you’ll be able to find motivation you didn’t know you had.

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Your World Totally Changed, Now What?

Before I became a Mom, I always tried to be that friend who was super understanding to the people around me with kids. I obviously knew on some level that kids took over every single aspect of your life, that more often than not their needs surpassed your own, and I tried really hard to be cognizant of that, but I felt like this whole idea of a “Mom Club” was stupid.

Why should there be any difference between them and me? Just because they had kids already and I didn’t have a family yet. I was obviously understanding to their needs as well as to what their kids needed. I knew my life would change when I had kids, I would talk about the need to be flexible all the time, the unknown of what my life would become all the time.

Holy shit girl was I totally off. Like beyond completely and totally just freaking wrong on every single level.

I didn’t understand my wrongness until I had Grace and all of a sudden it was like ya no wonder no one told me anything because there is literally NO way anyone could understand this level of change unless they went through it themselves. I think that’s why moms with screaming kids at Target give the silent nod of solidarity. Because we get it and we don’t truly have the words to describe it to anyone else.

And girl I would get SO frustrated in the beginning. I would want my day to go a certain way and then it wouldn’t happen for whatever reason, and it would drive me crazy. All that flexibility I talked about before that I knew I needed to have was non-existent. It always seemed to happen in relation to my workouts, that I would want to do a certain workout and for whatever reason, it would never happen. And the reasons my friend, were plentiful, most of which I don’t remember now.

I wish I could say that I found a solution overnight and everything was totally ok. That wasn’t the case for me. I spent a long time being frustrated, a lot of days not getting the workout in that I wanted, and a lot of days wondering when things would go back to “normal”.

So I embarked on this journey of trial and error. I needed to figure out what would work and I wanted to have a plan because that’s just in my nature. I tried to workout when Grace was awake (you can read previous blog posts to see how that went), I tried to go to gyms that had daycare, I tried to workout after Grace went to bed or when she was napping. The one thing I learned almost immediately was that every single day was going to be different.

After a ton of trial and error, I learned that my plans needed plans. Seriously though. Oh and I needed to HAVE a plan because trying to wing my workouts wasn’t working with the kind of sleep deprivation every new mom operates under.

Eventually I found that what worked for me was having a contingency plan. Like the plan of the workout I would ideally want to do and the time I would ideally like to do it, and then a back up plan. The Oh Shit plan as it were. This plan gave me alternate times for working out in case my original plan didn’t work, as well as alternate workouts. 

In all fairness, this takes some thought and duh obviously planning on my part which is something I usually do over the weekend when I’m looking at my week ahead. It takes me being intentional and realistic to my time constraints as well as being methodical for what workouts go on which days (as well as back up workouts) so I can continue to see gains from working out.

For me, this works most of the time. I’m still learning the art of being flexible and patient but I feel better knowing that I now have something to fall back on just in case.

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It Lights Me Up

When I got to the point where I was cleared for exercise again after my injury, I went freaking balls to the wall. Working out at least two times a day, 5 to 6 days a week, pushing my body to the point of exhaustion. I definitely was making up for some lost time but I definitely was also pushing myself like crazy to lose the weight I gained while on bed rest.  

I was determined. Nothing was going to stand in my way from me getting back to where I was pre-injury. Maybe some of that drive was the subconscious need to show myself that I hadn’t lost who I was, my strength, that sort of thing, that I was still me at the end of the day, and my life hadn’t changed “that” much.

I did not let myself fall into any excuse. If I had an early morning class or work shift, working out meant waking up at 5am. If I was hungover, it didn’t matter, if I was sore, cramping, in a bad mood, really pick your favorite excuse and to me, it didn’t matter. I still showed up.

I had to show up. I was so bound and determined to move my body that I showed up and I showed up hard. I started lifting weights, I started doing CrossFit, I pushed myself to the very edge of a cliff of complete body breakdown.

I don’t recommend this at all. I had no respect for my body, the process of healing and recovery, of regaining strength properly, of rest days. None of it. I was a machine on a single lane course towards disaster.

My body bit back at me. A back injury, a shoulder injury, and a knee injury later, all within the first 7 years from my foot injury, and I couldn’t do it anymore. I had let my ego and this internal drive to show myself (not anyone else mind you, just me) that I could still perform like I did pre-injury, get the best of me.

I stopped doing CrossFit, even with a certification, I started focusing more on yoga, swimming, more into Pilates which were my primary modalities of fitness when I was first recovering, I started meditating and I started forcing myself to take rest days.

I also started working this very stressful job as a second responder and fitness became my primary avenue of self care. My outlet for stress from clients, from colleagues, from life. I would workout so I could tune out all the bullshit that was around me. The noise was too much sometimes and I didn’t know how else to handle it. So I would sweat it out. That hour became my only chance sometimes during the day where I knew I didn’t have to think about anything else. 

I started working out during my lunch break at work so I could escape my office, I started my certification for Pilates and I lost all desire to be in corporate America. I was burnt out in every single aspect and totally over it. I craved having the balance of having life, I was over being a mid-level manager, I felt like it was time to take my second chance and have a bigger impact.

Being able to move my body and see what I was capable of made me feel empowered and I wanted the women in my community to feel the same way. Even now, nothing fires me up more than having someone tell me “damn I didn’t think I could do that, but your encouragement showed me I could”. It makes me feel like I’ve won every award and every medal, it gives me the drive to keep learning, keep pushing and keep showing up.

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Grace and the Ball

It doesn’t take long to realize that working out is a large part of my household. I think it all started for me with my injury, and this subconscious pressure to make sure that I was active so I could maintain my mobility and make sure that I kept my body healthy. It just makes sense. I have to make sure that I can continue to weight bear properly and that my joints are all happy so I can continue to have a good quality of life. 

While that’s definitely a large part of my active lifestyle, I’ve also come to realize over the years that working out is my selfcare. It’s what I need to keep my sanity during the crazy days, sometimes it’s my only hour to myself during the day, and oftentimes it’s when I have moments of clarity and creativity. 

Now it’s even bigger than all of that because I have this responsibility to this amazing kid to show her what living a healthy lifestyle looks like, what working out for your body looks like, and what it looks like to really take care of yourself.

Granted I’ve had to get creative since I had my kiddo with my working out time, and also super flexible because working out doesn’t always happen how I want it to or really when I want it to happen. So needless to say, we have a TON of workout equipment at our house. To the point now where I don’t even need to have a gym membership because I can do everything I need to do at home. Fortunately, because I know how to write my own workouts, coming up with new and hard things to do is never really an issue.

One of my newest additions to my home workout equipment is this little Pilates fitness ball. I know not everyone knows what this ball is all about, but if you’ve ever done Pilates, you definitely know what this ball can be used for and how much it can change the dynamic of a workout. Predominantly, it’s used for inner thigh work, which has all kinds of benefits from picking up your pelvic floor to helping the health of your knees. Regardless of its versatility, it definitely can take a workout to the next level so of course having one at home was a necessity not a want.

Unfortunately, when you have a house with a kiddo and puppies, a ball is a toy. So I’m constantly telling someone to leave the ball alone and having to hide the ball so it doesn’t get accidentally popped. As of late though, the kiddo is starting to understand that the workout equipment isn’t for her to play with and as she gets older, she wants to see how to use the equipment.

One day, the kiddo grabs the ball, puts it in between her legs as she has so often seen me do (for inner thigh work), does a single squat and gets this look on her face like ‘OH NO this is NOT happening, I HATE this.’ She took the ball out, placed it down, looked at me and said ‘No more Mommy, I’m done.’ So I looked right back at her and said ‘Baby you’re literally like every single client I’ve ever had in the studio in the past several years who used the ball for the first time. I know. It’s awful.’

Needless to say, she’s learning what she likes for fitness and what she doesn’t like and I’ll be there to continue to teach her along the way.

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Getting MY Healthy Back

Because motherhood is a journey and not a destination and because even though I had this HUGE blessing of knowledge and education with fitness and nutrition, it doesn’t mean that things were easy.

So to piggy back on my last post, I truly am grateful that Grace is being raised in an environment where healthy living is a priority and she can learn about what it means to make healthy choices without feeling pressured to do it.

I distinctly remember the first Pilates session I did post c-section with Grace. I went in by myself because I honestly wasn’t sure how any of it was going to feel. On the positive, my normally conservative doctor cleared me for all activities 4 weeks post partum as well as post op, so I went into the studio in between classes when I knew I wouldn’t run into anyone. I had already been back in the pool and was walking, but Pilates…geesh that was a WHOLE other story.

Here I am on the reformer trying to figure out what I was even going to do because it was at least 3 months since I programmed a class much less worked out on a reformer, and I’m going through the motions and then I go to do a roll up…and my body literally said ABSOLUTELY NOT. And I remember thinking holy moly I’m gonna have to get a new job because I can’t even do this one and this is so horrible because I just want to be able to do this and I can’t, well…you get the picture, there was for sure a moment of panic. There was no patience on my part that I was so soon in the studio after having a baby as well as having major abdominal surgery and there was for sure no humility when it came to my body and what I thought were its capabilities.

So I took a deep breath, let go of my frustration and slowly, with time, the things I was used to doing came back. For the most part, although I will say that the majority of exercises feel different especially where the core is concerned and I did have a significant amount of re-learning to do.

And then I held myself to the fire with Pilates. I made sure I was going to class, I was practicing at home, in the effort to get my strength back up. Not just because I only make people do what I have done myself (and recently), but also because I needed my confidence back to I could effectively teach class. For me, it’s a matter of holding my tribe to the fire because I hold myself to the fire. I don’t expect that anyone will be able to do everything on any given day, that’s why you take your necessary modifications, BUT I do expect that people will show up every time and will do THEIR best every time. Not what the person is doing next to them, but what their body can do for them. I want to teach people to let go of their ego so they can have a true appreciation for their own body’s capabilities and be able to celebrate those capabilities, knowing that it’s only going to get better. I want people to show up for themselves and when they do those things that amaze themselves, I want to be the coach in the corner telling them “See, I knew you could do it.”

 

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