The Gift of: Your (Beautiful) Body Story

I wrote this blog post about 6 months ago. I thought it would be worth sharing again, especially for newbies to the blog:

A wise person once said: You Don’t Have a Body. You Are a Body.

In light of my occupation as a personal trainer and bodybuilder, I started to take a second look at the entire fitness industry in light of this statement.

I think too often we focus on the negatives of our bodies. “We hate our own bodiliness,” was something a wise person once said recently (actually it’s the same wise person I just mentioned. I can’t help it, I love wise people.)

I tend to agree that there is an almost universal negative attitude towards our bodies.

I’ve spoken to people on both ends of the spectrum when it comes to what to do with “this body.” I’ve noticed 2 types of people:

The Hater

We hate our body and we do everything possible to hide it, to lie about it, to use it, and abuse it in an effort to make it appear acceptable, perhaps even attractive according to outside influences or societal standards. This becomes an obsession to the point that we become envious of anyone who has the body that we desire so much. This also could lead to despair as we try over and over to attain this “perfect body” with little to show for it. We devalue our bodies and think ourselves unworthy.

The Lover

We love our body so much that we become vain to the point of over exposure. We boast and brag and show off, becoming completely obsessed with maintaining this “perfect” physique. A narcissistic attitude takes over. We believe our body is something to be worshiped by those who hate their own bodies (and we know there are plenty of those).  We also become very frustrated by anyone who isn’t like us. We don’t understand how they just don’t “get with it” and aren’t in love with fitness and health like we are.

But there’s some good news, kind of.

Perhaps the overwhelming majority are those in the middle:

The Love/Haters

These folks have a love/hate relationship with their body. They struggle just like everyone else with maintaining their weight but they don’t obsess over it. They “watch” their diet but they don’t write down what they eat and they most certainly don’t count calories. They like what they see in the mirror but they don’t love it. There’s always room for improvement but they probably only get to the gym once or twice a month.

If there’s one thing all of these people have in common, it’s that they see their bodies as Objects. Things. Possessions.

But what if you looked at your body as a way to tell a story. That certainly changes things doesn’t it?

You can either tell a good, honest story, or a story of lies and deception.

Some examples, since this is a difficult concept:

I’m a smoker and I go to my doctor for a checkup. The doctor tells me that I’m showing all the signs of lung cancer and that I had better cut back or quit on the smoking if I want to live longer. Meanwhile, I’ve seen this same doctor light up a cigarette outside the office and I see a pack of cigarettes in his pocket. That doctor is lying with his body.

Or:

I go to a used car salesmen to try and find a good deal. He sells me this great looking car, I take it for a test drive, the price is right and I drive off the lot but not before he shakes my hand and tells me I made a great decision. Meanwhile, he goes back to his desk and laughs to himself because he knows he just sold me a lemon. By shaking my hand and sincerely telling me I made a great purchase, he lied with is body, as well as his words.

Or:

In the gym, let’s say I take some video demonstrating an exercise or I take a few pictures to put up on my website. When someone asks me how I manage to be so strong or in such great shape, I tell them “Hard work!” but in the meantime, I’m taking some performance enhancing drugs or steroids. I would be lying with my body.


 

So how do we use our body to tell the truth, specifically with regards to health and fitness?

 

It starts with honesty with ourselves. It’s EASY to lie to others. “Oh yeah, I’ve been sticking with my diet and my training. I’ll be ready for that 5k in a few weeks, no problem!”

Meanwhile, you know you’ve cheated on your diet, eaten ll the wrong things, splurged on junk food, and haven’t gotten a run in because you still haven’t bought a good pair of running shoes (or whatever the case may be).  But no one else knows that! So there’s no one to tell the truth to, except yourself.

If we can be honest with ourselves, by speaking the truth, by admitting our faults and our screw-ups, even if it’s in a journal or out loud to ourselves, it’s one step towards telling the truth with our bodies.

It starts when we stop thinking of our bodies as these “things” you have to deal with and work at and drag around. What a sad way to view ourselves. And we wonder why people are SO interested in the quick-fix diet schemes?


 

We need to re-frame our thinking to understand that our body is exactly who we are. It’s not something to be mocked, abused, degraded and devalued at the expense of others or in the name of vanity and pride. And certainly not the in the name of fitness.

Start telling your story with honesty. If we start there, it might become easier to view OTHERS in a more respectful way, not just ourselves.

If you are telling a story every minute of the day with your body…

What kind of story are you telling and what would you want people to remember about it?

4 Moves To Become a Morning Person

Ugh, Monday. What’s worse than Monday? Sunday night. Sunday evenings have always been the absolute worst for me for as long as I could remember. Back when I was a child, I would have the worst anxiety on Sunday nights. Pretty sure this caused me my insomnia that I had for decades.

But now? I LOVE Mondays. Not only that, but now I’m a morning person!

How does a night owl with anxiety become a Monday loving early morning riser?  Train for a marathon!  Okay, so that’s extreme. But honestly, that’s how the early mornings started for me. But for those that can’t just decide one day to train for a race, you can start an Early Morning Routine.

For most people, the mere ACT of getting up early IS their early morning routine. For those that have mastered turning off the snooze button, your next step is to MOVE. Out of the bed is preferable. For those who are super lazy, I suppose you can stay in your bed and do these moves but…yeah, you should probably roll onto the floor for these.

  1. Iron Cross
    If you can’t straighten your leg in the first picture, try bending one (or BOTH!) as pictured here.

    2. Glute/Hip Bridge

    Squeeze the glutes together at the top of the movement; hold it for a few seconds before lowering down.

    3. Bird Dog

    Alternate opposite arm and leg. The challenge is to keep the head, shoulders, back and hips all in alignment. Very challenging, especially first thing in the morning.

    4. “Sneaky” 30 Second Plank

    Rest for 10 Seconds; then Hold a Plank for 10 Seconds. Repeat 2 more times. Adds up to 30 seconds. Clever, eh?

    There you go. A simple Monday morning (or any morning) “Just Move” routine anyone can do by just rolling out of bed. There’s no mention of reps except for this last move because you can do as many or as little as you want. Enjoy!

 

Your Body Tells a Story

A wise person once said:

You Don’t Have a Body. You Are a Body.

If I AM a body and it is not something I have, then why or how could I possibly consider changing it?

I think too often we focus on the negatives of our bodies. “We hate our own bodiliness,” was also a statement I’ve been hearing these past few months.

I can’t help but agree.  I talk to people on both ends of the spectrum when it comes to what to do with “this body.”

Either:

We hate our body and we do everything possible to hide it, to lie about it, to use it, and abuse it in an effort to make it appear acceptable, perhaps even attractive according to outside influences or societal standards. This becomes an obsession to the point that we become envious of anyone who has the body that we desire so much. This also could lead to despair as we try over and over to attain this “perfect body” with little to show for it. We don’t value our bodies at all and think ourselves unworthy.

Or:

We love our body so much that we become vain to the point of over exposure. We boast and brag and show off and become completely obsessed with maintaining this “perfect” physique. A narcissistic attitude takes over. We believe our body is something to be worshiped by those who hate their own bodies. We don’t understand how some people just don’t “get with it” and aren’t in love with fitness and health like we are.

But perhaps the overwhelming majority are those in the middle:

These folks have a love/hate relationship with their body. They struggle just like everyone else with maintaining their weight but they don’t obsess over it. They “watch” their diet but they don’t write down what they eat and they most certainly don’t count calories. They like what they see in the mirror but they don’t love it. There’s always room for improvement but they probably only get to the gym once or twice a month.

 

If there’s one thing all of these people have in common, it’s that they see their bodies as Objects. Things. Possessions.

But what if you looked at your body as a way to tell a story. How?

Simple: How you live your life through your body tells your story.

You can either tell a good, honest story, or a story of lies and deception.

Some examples:

I’m a smoker and I go to my doctor for a checkup. The doctor tells me that I’m showing all the signs of lung cancer and that I had better cut back or quit on the smoking if I want to live longer. Meanwhile, let’s pretend this is the 50’s and he lights up a cigarette after telling me this. That would be lying with his body.

Or:

I go to a used car salesmen to try and find a good deal. He sells me this great looking car, I take it for a test drive, the price is right and I drive off the lot but not before he shakes my hand and tells me I made a great decision. Meanwhile, he goes back to his desk and laughs to himself because he knows he just sold me a lemon. By shaking my hand and sincerely telling me I made a great purchase, he lied with is body, as well as his words.

Or:

In the gym, let’s say I take some video demonstrating an exercise or I take a few pictures to put up on my website. When someone asks me how I manage to be so strong or in such great shape, I tell them “Hard work!” but in the meantime, I’m taking some performance enhancing drugs or steroids. I would be lying with my body.

So how do we use our body to tell the truth?

I think the most obvious example, for me personally, is posting my progress pictures. (I know I’m in need of posting updated ones). But you’ll always notice I never even add so much as a filter to the pictures. I let it all hang out, I don’t do any re-touching. I merely admit that I get a spray tan to cover up some minor “flaws” that I’m honest about.

Other ways we tell lies and how to tell the truth:

You see someone at the gym using a piece of equipment completely incorrectly to the point that they are probably going to injure themselves or someone else. Lying with our bodies would be to say nothing and walk away knowing full well we know how to help them. (I am guilty of this).  Telling the truth would obviously going over and explaining what to do to that person so they won’t hurt themselves again.

(I avoid confrontation because I’m intimidated by people sometimes. If I took my own advice, I would see that I don’t need to be afraid to let someone know they are using their bodies to HARM or cause an injury.)

Or:

We see some good looking person at the gym and we want to show off a little bit. So we grab a set of heavier dumbbells (Men do this ALL the time, I am convinced) and lift just a little heavier than we normally do. We know we cannot and shouldn’t be lifting this heavy but we really want to catch someone’s attention. That’s lying with your body. Even if you manage to get a few reps out, you’re deceiving others by making it appear that you are stronger than you are.  Don’t be a hero Johnny. Stick to your usual weights.

With diet and food this is much easier to slip up and lie. How?

Let’s say you’re on a diet. Let’s say you actually signed up for sessions with a personal trainer. And let’s say you know that since your trainer/friends can’t see you every minute of the day, you take it upon yourself to sneak a few “cheats” in here and there. After all, no one will know! But you made a commitment to be true to yourself. To be true to your body and try to stick to this diet or this workout plan. And you know full well that “cheating,” even once in a while, is going to make your trainer look bad, it’s going to make you feel worse and it’s and not going to help your health. This is one of the more common “lies” we tell with our bodies. When asked, “Did you indulge this weekend at all?” and we answer, “Of course not! I was “good!” we lie right to our own faces/trainer/people who care about us and want us to succeed.  When it comes time to step on the scale, you can’t act surprised when it’s not where it should be.

 

Start to think of your body as more than just this “thing” you have to deal with and work at and drag around. It’s who you are.

You are telling a story every minute of the day with your body.

What kind of story are you telling and what would you want people to remember about it?

 

 

Running with the Rosary

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“The ROSARY is the book of the blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next. The power of the Rosary is beyond description.” Archbishop Fulton Sheen (Way to Inner Peace)

As some of you may already know, I’m a Personal Trainer and overall obsessed gym rat. Recently, I’ve been trying to find a way to blend my favorite things together – my faith AND my love of fitness. There are others out there with this same problem goal and I’m always in awe to see people and companies who have blended this successfully.

Some examples:

What Would Jesus Deadlift? They are all over social media, especially Instagram where followers take pictures of themselves in WWJD gear. (Of course, I’ve bought a two shirts myself as soon as I discovered them). From their website:

Have you ever finished your set and thought, What Would Jesus Deadlift? Wear this comfortable shirt at the gym to motivate you and those around you while you workout to meditate on what Jesus lifted. That weight on that cross was all of our sins, yours and mine. Just as Jesus picked up that cross, you can pick up that weight!

Our Vision: We are not here to just sell shirts and become rich. We are here to help send a message with this design. God has called us to challenge others to put some thought to “What Would Jesus Deadlift?” What does that mean? How does that relate to my fitness lifestyle? My spiritual journey? Am I taking what Jesus did on that cross for granted?

Think about it. Make others do the same.

Our Mission: We are here to give back. With every purchase you make, we make a local impact here in Fresno, CA as we reach out to others by giving them a free t-shirt, help with food, talking and ministering to others on “What Would Jesus Deadlift”. We hope you can be part of it!

PrayFit MinistriesThe mission of PrayFit Ministries is to help the collective church with humble, bodily stewardship, and to help those in the health & fitness industry toward a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

In The PrayFit Diet, NYT best selling author Jimmy Peña shows us how faith is the most powerful tool we have to conquer all of life’s obstacles, and that includes our health. More importantly, God wants you to be at your best, physically and spiritually. By combining perfectly proportioned meals with Biblically based motivation, The PrayFit Diet will give you all the tools you need to live a life that will both inspire you and honor the Lord.


So what about me?  I don’t have a clothing line…I’m not a best selling author….I’m not a professional figure competitor with a large following.

How can I use my faith to promote a healthy life and help others do the same?

I discovered one small way this morning during my long run.

I’m training for a marathon in October and I was scheduled to run 8 miles today. I started out listening to music from iPhone which I normally do to keep me motivated. To run in complete silence is definitely do-able but not ideal when you have a run longer than a couple miles.

Today, it was about 80 degrees during my run which means I probably felt like it was around 85-90 degrees. To say this was challenging would be an understatement.

After 3 miles in this time, I decided to try something different. I stopped the music and started my Rosary App. (Yes there’s a Rosary app, there’s an app for everything isn’t there?)

The app is pretty simple; it has simple graphics and an audio (voice) that goes through the entire rosary. You choose which “Mystery” you’d like to pray and just hit “play.”

I grabbed my Mom’s rosary that she had with her for the final years of her life while she fought lymphoma. It was a perfect way to pray a rosary because, as you can see from the picture, it fits right around your thumb!

I made it from mile 3 to mile 7 praying through the Luminous Mysteries as well as the Sorrowful Mysteries. Each Mystery takes about 25 minutes to pray through so for me, given how slow of a runner I am, that equated 2 miles.

The Pros:

I was actually able to meditate and pray without getting distracted too much. Anyone who knows their rosary knows getting distracted while reciting the same prayer over and over again is a common occurrence. But I think because I was actively moving (running, in this case) I was surprisingly able to stay focused.

The time it took to get through this sweaty run went by very quickly. While most of the time, listening to music DOES kinda get the blood flowing and the legs moving, it still seems like it takes FOREVER for me to complete my miles. This time, I felt motivated by the words being prayed. Kind of like a chant? Whatever it was, it helped pass the time.

The Cons:

Due to the heat and the fact that I didn’t have a water belt on me, I was SUPER thirsty. This was increased due to the fact that I was trying to SAY the Rosary out loud along with the app. Of course, even though I’m not that fast of a runner, I still couldn’t quite get the words out. So it was more of a breathless whisper instead of speaking out loud. But even just this whisper caused me to feel like I constantly needed water. I took a few walk breaks but I attempted to time them when I finished a decade which I found to be kind of a good “break.”

I think Running with the Rosary has some potential. But, I would probably be hesitant to promote it as the BEST way to pray it. I think any super Catholic would suggest that you should really be still and silent or at least in a chapel to pray the rosary “best.” But, for those who say they are too busy to pray or too busy to say a rosary, why not just say one Hail Mary while you’re running? And then if you feel like you can do more, add a few more. Then you might add more until you’ve said a whole decade.  My personal feeling is that as long as you show Mary her proper reverence and can get in a few rosaries while running, I think she would say, “Run with me! Just don’t run FROM me!” 🙂


 

For those who have no idea how to pray the rosary, or how to stay focused when distractions come up I have a few good resources listed here.

From: Understanding the Rosary – A Wake Up Call by Kat Franchino

Tiny Cheat Sheet: Rosary Edition

  • The word rosary itself is Latin and translates along the lines of “a garland of roses.” The story goes that St. Dominic developed the Rosary sometime between the 12th and 15th centuries after having a vision of the Virgin Mary, but prayer beads and cords were used way before St. Dominic’s vision.
  • The Rosary is divided into decades, with each decade starting with a mystery. A mystery is a short reading that focuses on an aspect of Jesus or Mary’s life, with the word mystery meaning “a truth of the faith.” Still a little baffled by that translation of mystery. There are three traditional mysteries (Joyful, Sorrow and Glorious mysteries), as well as the Luminous mysteries, added by Pope John Paul II in 2002. When praying a decade of the Rosary (the Our Father, 10 Hail Marys, Glory Be and the Fatima prayer), Catholics meditate on that decade’s mystery.
  • The Rosary is said for a variety of reasons. We say it because of our devotion to Mary who intercedes on our behalf. Saying it gives us an opportunity to meditate on key moments in Jesus’ life. The Rosary also helps us become more intentional and thoughtful in our prayers.

From: The Beginner’s Guide to the Rosary

Offering Intentions

Practically everyone who prays the Rosary “offers” the Rosary to God and Our Lady for an intention. Some people offer particular intentions before each decade. You can ask God to grant you a favor, heal a sick person, or convert a sinner. Some people offer the same intention every day–sometimes for years on end–especially when asking the Father for the conversion of a particular person. Intentions are as varied as the people who pray.

Ask for big and small gifts. Be bold! In this sense, the Rosary is an exchange of gifts between friends.

It is widely known that Our Lady answers seemingly impossible intentions to those who are first beginning to pray the Rosary. This is her way of drawing you closer to Her and to Jesus. If you are praying your first Rosary, or returning to the Rosary after years of not talking to Our Lady, ask for something big, spectacular, “impossible.” She’ll often surprise you.

 

 

 

Hit the Reset Button

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It’s been one of those months.  Not days, not weeks, an entire month of being way too liberal with my diet.

I had booked a just-for-fun photo shoot for June 28th but told my photographer I need much more time. If I would have stuck with the original date, I would have been miserable. I probably would look “okay” maybe even “good” to some people, but I’m setting my standards higher than just “good” and “okay.”  I will in no way look like I’m ready to hit the stage in a competition, but I aim to look my most FIT this year. That’s my goal.

So, today is day number 1. Again.  We’ve all been here I’m sure:

“I’ll start tomorrow.”

“Just one more party and I’ll get back on my diet next week.”

“I can’t possibly say no to birthday/graduation/wedding cake, so just one more cheat weekend.”

I consider the past month a mini-vacation for myself. I didn’t go nuts but NOTHING was working to get myself motivated to lean out. My usual tricks just weren’t cutting it. No motivational sayings posted on my phone or pictures of my favorite competitors helped. Writing about it didn’t help. Watching other people workout didn’t do anything for me. Taking progress pics didn’t do it either. Even pushing my own clients to work hard, which almost always works for me, didn’t make me want to take this seriously this time around.

I think I realized the problem: I believe it was a combination of stopping the coaching with Erik as well as having become USED to all the food during my bulk phase. I think my stomach was just like, “Ummm….what happened to all that food you were feeding me?”

Trust me, the food that’s on my diet phase of this plan is PLENTY of food for me. But of course, who wouldn’t just a little bit more? Just an extra bite here. A little more spoonful there. Oh just a few more grams won’t hurt.

The nice interesting part is that the scale doesn’t show any significant change. I didn’t completely undo all my hard work. So this tells me my cheats really weren’t that bad. This is more of a psychological RESET button I’m hitting. Because my mind and my heart were NOT into it this past month at all.

But that’s changing today.

No more slacking. Time to get serious.

So let’s this be a lesson to you boys and girls:

Even when you set goals, be ready to put the work in. Admit when you’re hearts just not into it, and hit that reset button when you are ready. It’s never too late!

 

 

The Holiday Pledge – in color!

So today being December 1st, it’s officially the “Holiday” season.  With that, I give you my Holiday Pledge (originally posted a few weeks ago) but this time my friend Justin made it all pretty for me. 🙂

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Ain’t it great?! 

If you have a pledge, feel free to share it in the comments section or just use mine! 

-Michelle