You are a personal trainer? May 14 2017
For those who have known me for a decade or two may have some insight about me. Although, I can be a bit of a closed book, so perhaps you really don't know. Regardless, I want to discuss a bit about how I've identified myself for the majority of my life and how that intertwines with my occupation.
In 2006/2007, I had finally put together that I *clearly* had issues with food. I think a coping mechanism up until this point was just brushing off the fact that food is an answer to many of my problems. I was a chunky kid. I would eat anything and I used food not to provide fuel or nourishment, but often to feed my emotions. By the end of 2007, I was engaging in binge/purge habits and I was struggling with emotional/mental issues of disordered eating, self-love/acceptance, etc.
In early 2008 was the beginning of "my weight loss journey". I think this experience was one of the hardest things I've ever had to sort through emotionally. It was very challenging for me to deal with people providing unsolicited advice, feedback, comments, criticism, etc. Especially as I started to identify as a 'skinny person' for the first time in my life. I am grateful that this experience led me to working in the fitness industry, but some aspects certainly messed with my head. My words of advice if you know someone going through body composition changes: ask how they are and be super mindful of word choice. Gaining/losing weight can be hard. I wish I had the courage to tell people that hurt my feelings that they way they talked to me was painful and damaging.
In 2009 I enrolled at ISU. I was overly thrilled to know what area I wanted to study and get into an industry to help others. I was definitely still working on understanding who I was (becoming) at the time. In fact, by my 2nd semester at university I sought out a counselor to help me work through some of my issues. This was the best decision ever and I think everyone could benefit from a trained professional to work through any issues they may have. In working with my counselor, it was really hard to come to terms with my eating disorder. I worked really hard on building up my self-esteem. To appreciate my food as a source of nourishment instead of dreading making meals or being obsessive about calorie / macro intake. The hardest part? Admitting to myself and loved ones that I was bulimic. Labels are hard. They're hard to process. And I have an intense fear of being judged. Were my family and friends now judging me based on this new label? These discussions create(d) a lot of anxiety and feelings of overwhelm.
I still work on these issues. And working in the fitness industry has brought on other labels, too. I almost always dread telling people that I'm a fitness professional / instructor / personal trainer. Why? Because most times than not, I get what I call the 'up and down'. A lot of people, probably many without realizing it, look at me from head to toe to judge if my body represents what a personal trainer should look like. I think we all know what box society wants to put fitness professionals in in terms of physical appearance. But my body doesn't represent my knowledge and experiences in the workforce. I have to remind myself that I am making a positive impact on my client's lives and I am doing a great job even while I feel I'm a work in progress.
I stepped on the scale for the first time today in ... months ... a year? I don't even know. I weight 180 pounds. At my lowest, I weighed 130. It's super hard to not let these numbers upset me, anger me, get the best of me, define me, etc. But you know what? Regardless of the scale, this body that I have right now has done AMAZING things. Things that I couldn't have done when I weighed less. I know that fitness has many looks. I know that this body of mine today is very fit, healthy, and I should be proud of it! But sometimes I need to remind myself of this.
I am hoping to just keep moving forward. To listen to my body. To provide fuel when my body/soul needs to be nourished. To enjoy movement because it makes me feel good, strong, fast, powerful, and inspiring. To be mindful of how I eat. To allow myself to indulge and feel okay. To be forgiving when I overindulge. To not become obsessive about food. To continue to love myself when the world feels overwhelming or when my inner voice is saying cruel things. To embrace my feelings and know that I will be okay. To be able to discuss my insecurities without fear of judgment. To understand that people who are judgmental are not allowed to take up space in my mind or heart.
I am not alone;
you are not alone.
We are more than labels.
We are worthy of love, acceptance, respect, etc.
And when life feels really hard or overwhelming, it will be okay. <3
I AM a personal trainer. And I'm damned good at what I do, not matter what my body looks like.
Driving Stick Shift April 14 2017
Last weekend my hubby and I wanted to get out and enjoy the nice weather. We started just driving around town, windows down, enjoying the sunshine! My husband thought what a perfect opportunity for me to (FINALLY) learn how to drive his car -- a manual! So we decide to go to an empty parking lot. Our old high school was the perfect place for the weekend since it's on the edge of town and nothing was going on at the school.
So, we get to the parking lot and switch seats. And my husband starts giving me the low down on how to operate this machinery. I did pretty good! This was my second attempt to drive a stick shift, but the first time was roughly 12 years ago, so I needed to learn from scratch. I was super nervous and as a visual learner, getting all auditory cues on how to make all the nuts and bolts work felt a little overwhelming. I killed the engine once and my husband said it "wasn't even that bad", so I'm pretty happy with the outcome. We never left the parking lot, so that kept my confidence high! :D
Afterwards, I began thinking about how my learning to drive is comparable to those who are new to the exercise scene. I was a novice exerciser once, too, but I've been in the fitness field for so long that I forget that it feels like to be the new person in a group class or self-conscious in the weight room when surrounded by advanced exercisers. Learning to drive stick was a good reminder about being a beginner in learning movement patterns. Even though my movement patterns were to operate a vehicle, it still translates to movement patterns with the goal of performing exercises correctly and safely. So hats off to those of you who show up time and time again to nail your movements down for the purpose of improving your [insert fitness goal here], even when it feels hard or uncomfortable or whatever obstacles you're facing. Keep driving forward, you got this!
ED: my story February 26 2017
Here is my story:
I was a chubby kid. I was fairly active. I grew up playing a few sports and involved with other movement-based activities. I didn't really think that I had any body-issues at that time. I'm not sure when my body image really started to become an issue for me or a prominent part of my life. Even to this day, negative self-talk and the like creep into my life and stay a while.
I ceased all forms of structured activity at the start of high school. It was at this point that I made the choice to no longer be involved in organized sports as competition was never really my thing. Additionally, I didn't believe I wanted to sacrifice my time towards practices, travel, and games that was required of being on a team. I would have kicked some soccer ass back in the day --- I do sometimes reflect on what potential I had or what I could have become at 15. But I think I ultimately made the best choice for me then.
So, I started to gain some weight in high school since I no longer had consistent movement as a part of my life. And trust me, at that age, participating in sports was the only thing that kept me active. It was my love of playing soccer/softball that kept me moving, not the love of movement in itself. Additionally, I've always LOVED food. So, lack of movement & eating A LOT definitely resulted in my body composition making some changes. I had some extra cushion to me. I've never been medically considered obese, but most definitely in the overweight category for the majority of my life. For whatever reason, this didn't bother me during my late teen years. Or perhaps, I just didn't care? Maybe I really did care, but just never let myself believe that? I'm not sure.
When I hit my 20's however, things started to change. I did care. Around my 21st birthday, I decided I was done with this body. I hated my body. It felt gross and fat and ugly. I poured all this negative energy into efforts to change it. I hit the gym. I decided to let my body tell me when I was hungry and when I was full -- overall, eating less. At the core, these are some decent habits, but I had some ill intentions behind them. When eating, if I became too full or even if I simply felt like I ate too much (even if my stomach told me otherwise and I wasn't experiencing fullness), I had to throw up. I have always hated admitting this myself and hated even more to admit this to others. To acknowledge that there was a problem made it all seem more real and (eventually) you have to deal with real things. Due to the intense loathing and self-hate, I was causing more harm to myself. It's such a cycle. I hate myself. So I would eat to create a sense of relief and fill some sort of void. I would guilt-trip myself about eating. This caused purging. Then I would hate myself because I had purged. It goes on and on. Fortunately (?), I did not partake in purging too frequently. I considered myself a 'dry bulimic" because I wouldn't regularly engage in the typical binge/purge scenario, which let me deny my problems. But the underlying (mental) issues were still there and that didn't make things any better as I didn't want to tackle any of my issues.
Shortly after was the start of my weight loss journey -- a few months after my 21st. In fact, as I began to lose more and more weight, people started asking questions. Because when your experience weight loss, discussion of your body apparently becomes the main topic with practically everyone. Since I'm a terrible liar, I told people my weight loss was done through healthy means. And I started to live that. I would resist binge and purge sessions because I couldn't deal with people hinting at if I had an eating disorder or not. And in my mind, if I'm not actually engaged in bulimic patterns, then I wasn't actually suffering from an eating disorder. At least, this is how I rationalized my problems and was able to deny that I even had a problem. I hated those questions and the feel of people being invasive (and judgmental). And most often, I felt people were only asking about me out of per curiosity and less from a standpoint of concern.
I feel like these issues don't just go away with time. I feel I have to work on this every day of my life. It's particularly challenging to have an eating disorder because you cannot cut out your addiction. You have to eat. You have to learn to approach eating differently and come to terms with your issues that brought you there. Addiction, anxiety, and depression run in my family. And I'm grateful that my family members who are alcoholics can abstain from drinking and that they have success in their sobriety. I get SUPER frustrated that my addiction cannot be a cold-turkey solution. And it's even MORE frustrating when they discuss that sobriety is the only solution and there are no other paths. And that's the only way to treat (any) addiction. I always feel that's such an insensitive statement for anyone with struggles with addiction in a different way or to anyone who has an eating disorder. The best thing I ever did for myself and my addiction was to seek out a counselor while I was attending university. When you have resources available, please take advantage of them! I learned so much about myself and how to approach food, my body image, anxiety, etc. I am so grateful that I had the courage to take that step. That was a very hard step to take and comes in second to telling/admitting to my loved ones that I have a problem. I'm still not very transparent about my disordered eating background because I still have intense anxiety regarding judgment from others. There are still many stigmas around mental illness and it can feel a little too overwhelming for me to share my own experiences without fearing people will react negatively to me. Today, I feel like sharing and I'm willing to feel a little uncomfortable for the sake of bringing awareness to this issue and struggle that many people face. Today, I'm taking a challenging step forward to share this part of my life.
I still struggle. And that's okay. :)
I'm glad to be able to share my experiences with you <3
Sunday: Run Day! February 19 2017
I'm not much a blogger, but I've been wanting to change that. And what better time than the present, right?! Here goes . . .
I enjoy running. To me, running is a challenge -- especially long distances. I find a great reward in being able to accomplish running challenges/obstacles/goals that I set for myself. In the last year or so, I've cranked up my mileage to include the half marathon distance. It's a big deal to me. It takes planning and commitment. Each run builds on the next. It's been a delightful way to challenge myself. In 2016, I completed 3 half marathons. Woohoo! Today, I want to talk about a different sort of challenge that I accomplished. Today I did something. I dared to overcome this obstacle; and I did it!
Back story: Last summer, I set out to accomplish a different sort of running . . . goal? I was inspired by another runner/writer/blogger gal to run in a sports bra. To be a part of what she calls the #SportsBraSquad. Now, I never ended up doing this. Why? I just couldn't get over the fact that there would be people looking at me, judging me, watching my body jiggle as I run, etc, etc. Sure, I'm athletic. Sure, my body can do some amazing things. I've also learned that insecurity happens to people of ALL sizes and I've experienced and continue to work on my own insecurities (body image and otherwise). Over the years, I've learned to appreciate my body. To love what it's capable of. To be proud of it. However, I still manage(d) to draw lines that kept me from doing some things because I feared how other people would view me.
Today . . . I took a step forward. This wasn't easy. Nope. I put on my running clothes around 11 a.m. or so. I geared up! I'm ready to go! I decided to wear a crop top and running tights. Mind you, the crop top IS active wear. It's meant to be worn while engaging in sweaty, fun activities. I put it on, grabbed my phone and running belt. Suited up. Laces are tied. But wait . . . *looks in the mirror* . . . I do still kinda care what people think. I went back and forth with this notion that my belly shouldn't be seen while I'm exercising. No one wants to see my jiggly, rollin' belly while I'm out on a run. But then I thought: JUST DO IT. Just go for your run and who cares what people think. This inner bickering went on for about an hour. I delayed my run by doing some warm up moves and stretches and returning to my mirror to fully take in what others will see while I get my training run in. But I finally settled on just going. Just run. Be free. Who cares!?
I did it! I put in four miles of asphalt kicking. And you know what? No. one. cared. It's an unusually gorgeous day for the middle of February. The sun is shining and I decided to dress for the weather. I could feel the breeze hitting my arms, legs, face, and stomach. It felt great. And sure, I did feel a bit uneasy and tugged on my shirt here and there. But I also felt empowered. I've been struggling with my half training lately. Today I had a solid groove/pace and everything felt good.
I think the take-home isn't necessarily wearing a crop top for every run that I embark, but rather what that crop top represents to me. Many of my clients, especially when we initially start to work together, tell me that they feel uncomfortable working out in front of others and I'm grateful that I took an opportunity to experience some empathy. I did something today. And I want to keep doing things to build up that self-confidence and be proud of what my body can do, what it looks like, and not give two poops about any one else's opinion. Here's to warmer weather and working towards that #SportsBraSquad status. Just like running, some things take one step at a time.
March Newsletter March 21 2014
My Illinois State University intern put together a newsletter with a few of the latest topics in health and exercise. It's important to understand the connection between your health and how exercise (or lack thereof) can effect you!
Exercise myths that need to go for good! March 14 2014
5 Common Exercise Myths
If you plan on exercising regularly (which you should!), it is important to understand some of the most common exercise myths. In order to gain the benefits of exercise, you need to be aware of what information will hinder or help your workout! There are certainly many more myths out there, and I’m sure you’ve heard your fair share, too; however, I’ve touched on some of the common myths that I have been approached with over the course of the last several years.
Exercise Myth #1: No pain, no gain
Oftentimes people believe that getting the most out of their workout requires putting the body through a painful experience. This is far from the truth! There are many benefits that can be achieved through physical activity that does not require extreme exertion. You can even achieve benefits of exercise without needing to break a sweat! In fact, doing too much, too soon increases the risk of injury and can also cause (delayed onset) muscle soreness—also referred to as DOMS. If you worked out too hard, the muscle soreness may take days to return to a normal state, thus potentially keeping you from performing daily exercise or even simple everyday tasks. Therefore, your exercises should be slightly challenging, but within your body’s capabilities!
Exercise Myth #2: Spot training
Many people believe that if they perform numerous crunches that they will develop a flat stomach or a six pack! If only it were so easy! There is no such thing as spot training (exercising a certain muscle or muscles in order to lose fat in that particular region). First of all, cardio activities—using large muscles for an extended period of time—play a larger role in fat reduction than strength exercises; therefore, doing crunches to reduce body fat is not the ideal approach to take. Secondly and unfortunately, your body decides where it will store or shed fat. Most of the time, genetics plays a major role in where you store the most body fat. Some people have a tendency to store fat in their buttocks or hips, whereas others may store more around the midsection. Don’t become discouraged about any ‘problem areas’; continual exercise—which includes cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility activities— combined with a solid nutrition plan will help you increase your fitness levels as well as help you achieve or maintain a healthy weight.
Exercise Myth #3: Women will become bulky if they perform strength exercises
Women have the capability to increase their muscle mass when strength training; however, women cannot build muscle at the same capacity as men can, naturally. Testosterone—as well as other hormones—is required to build large, bulky muscles. Women are not capable of producing massive muscles because they simply do not secrete enough testosterone to do so. There are women who inject male hormones—such as testosterone—in order to achieve an unnatural extreme muscular build, which is not something I recommend! Women are encouraged to perform strength exercises because it helps to build and maintain muscle mass as well as bone density, both of which gradually decline with increased age. So start lifting, ladies!
Exercise Myth #4: More protein means more muscle!
Our society today believes that protein is extremely important! It IS important, but culturally we are consuming more than what our body needs. An ideal diet will contain 55-65% carbohydrate, 20-30% fat, and 10-15% protein of total daily calorie intake. Muscle building occurs from engaging in strength training exercises and eating a protein rich meal one hour post exercise. While exercising, muscle fibers will tear and rebuild themselves within a few days (hence the muscle tenderness you may feel after a strength workout). During this rebuilding process is when muscle size can increase. Essentially you muscles break down in order to build back up and then some! It is important to know that strength exercises should not be performed on consecutive days in order for the muscles to have adequate time for repair. To conclude, the most important aspects of muscle building is combining challenging strength exercises (immediately followed by a protein-rich food source) with sufficient rest periods in between workouts.
Exercise Myth #5: If I’m not losing weight, I’m not getting any healthier
There are so many health benefits that exercise provides other than changes in body composition. Your risk for cardiovascular and metabolic disease decreases as you become more active. Adequate physical activity is described as 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week or vigorous aerobic activity for a total of 45-60 minutes per week. By achieving this amount of physical activity, your blood pressure and total cholesterol can decrease, your glucose and insulin sensitivity can increase, and stress levels can decrease (Plowman and Smith, 2011). Even if your body weight has not changed much, your health profile has improved dramatically and oftentimes your body composition has changed (clothes fitting better, smaller waistline, etc.)! In fact, fit individuals who are obese have a lower risk of all-cause mortality than unfit, normal weight or unfit, lean individuals (Plowman and Smith, 2011). Try not to become too concerned with the number of the scale and focus more on the way you feel!
New Adventures March 02 2014
I have been working hard on creating more of a presence in the online world recently. I've finally put together a Facebook business page (www.facebook.com/ErinFitzgeraldPersonalTrainer). I still need to do some more work with a YouTube channel, Google+ page, etc. I feel like there's a lot to be accomplished still! As soon as all of these things come together, I'll be able to focus more on what I want to be doing - training!
I'm excited to create some video content. Whether that be exercises or program examples, tips, or just updating my latest adventures!
Things are really coming together and going in a direction that I'm truly enthusiastic about! Here's to the next chapter ... may it bring good health!