Saturday, January 16, 2021

Fitness Class Gym Etiquette

A few years ago I started posting a gym etiquette list for group fitness members. While some things have stayed the same, there are a few that have changed over time.  I enlisted a few instructors to help me come up with a list. This should not only help those that are frequent class attendees but also for those who are new and may not even know there's class rules. You may even find yourself wanting to add to this list or start asking "what about rules for the instructor?!" For the most part fitness instructors follow guidelines for safety, fun and company rules.  I also love feedback, good or bad it's one of the best ways we can grow as instructor. However, this article is a help guide for you, some funny takes on fitness and my experience as an instructor, manager and class attendee myself.  It is not an article to point out everyone's flaws, name names or get offended.  I hope you find the humor, see the reasoning and ultimately have the best experience in a fitness class.   

These are not listed in any specific order and no we are not talking about anyone in particular,  you don't know them, don't ask me.  

If late... We understand life happens and getting to a class right on time is not always possible. If late, please go to the back or side of the room as to be less disruptive. This is not a rock concert you push your way through to the front to get the very best spot. Be mindful of the other members. Way back in the day it used to be "If you're going to come late, don't come at all." That is absolutely not the case anymore. Show up when you can, stay for the whole class or part of it-- just come!  For safety reasons we just want to make sure you are warmed up, your body is ready to move or cooled down enough that you can stop without risk or injury. We are just happy you came.  

Your spot is not reserved. Especially a format such as dance fitness with no equipment. I've seen fights break out over standing in someones spot, for real she got a bloody nose. There are new clients attending classes nearly every day in every class. These new members are certainly not going to know that the southwest corner in the front row is Suzie's spot. Make room. There's a reason it's called GROUP fitness and not SOLO fitness. We all want to feel welcomed. You come for the workout but come back for the connections. 

SMILE now and then. Standing in front of a room full of faces staring at you, waiting for you to deliver an amazing class, can be intimidating. We love it as instructors when you smile back at us and let us know you're having a good time. We don't want to wonder the rest of class if you think we are just crazy. I mean we are a little, but the fun kinda crazy. 

Take phone calls outside. Talking on your phone or scrolling through your social media in class is not only disruptive to the instructor, but the class as well. But if you must, please turn down the brightness on your phones in dark rooms like a spin class. Your bright screen is blinding the instructor, and ruining the movie... I mean the class.  

Follow the instructor's choreography. That's all, just follow it. Don't get me wrong, this is not about being new and just getting your feet wet. We accept 2 left feet, grapevines the other direction and turning in circles. Been there, it gets easier. Do your best, we are here to help.

This is about ignoring the instructor and doing your own thing. I've taught fitness over 13 years, can you imagine the choreo and formats stuffed in this brain of mine? There's is a high chance I don't get the choreo right 100% of the time or maybe another instructor teaches it a little different. Your instructor has 18,649 songs worth of choreography in their head, give us the 3% margin, we may be off.  

Just go with it, unless we've made eye contact with a desperate look of "crap what's next?" just smile and go along with it. You may even know different steps that you learned to the same song in an amazing country ballet hip hop class, again please for the love of all that's fitness, do the choreo your instructor is showing.  It can throw off the best of teachers or confuse the class all together if you are doing something different. We love it when you add your flare and level up the choreography we are teaching. It pumps up the class and builds an untouchable energy. That is the magic of group fitness.

The Chatty Kathy. Having a friend come to class with you is so much fun. We love it when you bring your friends, the more the merrier. Please keep the chit chat to minimum or visit outside.  It is tough to cue over loud conversations. Be aware of the class and space around you.  

If it's not a class that uses equipment, don't get it out. There's generally a very good reason the instructor doesn't have equipment out. Once one person starts to pull out the weights, others tend to want to follow. 

Please be respectful of classes in session. If you are not attending the group fitness class, it is not ok to go in the back of class and do your own workout. This includes stretching, lifting weights, your own dance class....  (it's happened) We would love it if you joined in though.  

Wipe off your equipment. I know, do I really have to go there? Yes I do. Please take the time to do your part. Yes gyms are going the extra mile to sanitize everything, but lets add an extra level of comfort and safety.  

Wait for the class before you to clearly be done before entering in. Give them a few minutes to clean up any equipment. Better yet, help put equipment away. Staring into the window will not speed the class up any faster. Maybe you could go join in for last few minutes.  But looking at your watch, nose to the glass and tapping your toes, just gives us all anxiety. I'm excited, too. Should class have issues getting out on time, quietly discuss it with the instructor or gym manager. 

NO groan and moan. The grunting and moaning during class has to stop.  I don't mean the occasional noisy exhale, I mean the "When Harry Met Sally" grunting, can't tell if it's "oh sooo good" or you have clearly met your limit on stretching or weights. Either way it's inappropriate for a class setting.  If people around you are uncomfortable with the noises you are making, then it's creating a toxic environment, and some people might not want to come back. We get it, you are working hard, we don't all need to experience it quite that way.  So I have given my class things they can say.  "wow, this is killer, how many more?" I also accept "woop woop!" Anything that builds class energy without making me feel like I just cheated on my spouse in group fitness.  

Be respectful to a sub.  It is not the best feeling as an instructor to have a student walk in the room, see that's it's you teaching and then do an U-turn to the closest exit. Are you there for a workout or not?  Would it be the worse idea to try a different instructor?  We are human, our feelings can get bruised, but also it's just mean. I don't refuse to teach when a not so favorite student walks in the room.  Oh crap Cindy showed up, that's it,  I'm done.  You're right that does sound ridiculous. I'm all for having our "favorite" teachers, but it's ok to try someone new. We rely on our subs who have taken the time to add a class to their probably already busy schedule so we can attend to personal matters.  I don't want to show up the next day and hear my class was totally rude to a sub and made her feel unwelcome and now doesn't ever want to sub for me again.  If you choose to not stay, please discreetly leave.  Chances are you just missed out on a great class and a new way to workout.  

Quick tips:

Wear deodorant, it may need to be reapplied especially if its an evening class.

Wear Appropriate attire-- this includes checking to see if your leggings are see-through. The difference between leggings and tights are if you can see your fingers when you run them through the inside. Try putting on star spangled underwear. If you can see your stars and stripes, they are tights. I may spend more money on my athletic apparel but it's worth not showing my "business."

Ask for options if needed. But do so before class. Pregnancy, injuries (old and new), fatigue, chronic illness are just a few reasons you may need modifications and we are trained to help. I personally love using my extra skills as a personal trainer to make each class fun for every level.  In class recently a sweet lady said "I'm sorry, I could only do half those moves"  Please know we are never looking for perfection. I love watching the progress of trying new things. Seeing students get stronger and more confident week after week, is why I do what I do. Doing your best is a level everyone can achieve. 

Eat 90 min to 2 hrs before class.  Make sure you have the energy and resources for your workout. 

Hydrate! Before, during and after class. 

Class Expectations-

No bullying 

No making fun of anyone

Be kind and encourage each other 

This is a safe and judge free zone.

Ultimately our goal is to provide a safe and fun class that makes everyone want to come back

week after week. I understand not everyone is able to attend class in person. I hope and

pray we all get there soon and can be face to face once again.

Until then enjoy those workouts from home or see you at the gym and keep moving!

Tamra Stephenson

Personal Trainer

Friday, December 25, 2020

Was It Worth It? Being a Sports Team Mom

 It won't be long before my girls are all grown up and Im in the group of empty nesters. I raised a gymnast, a cheerleader,  dancer, writer, artist, soccer player, skater and a rock climber. But I didn't just raise a talent, we raised daughters with integrity and values. It wasn't without sacrifice. I often see questions on social media asking for advice about putting their child in a competitive sport. Will it be hard?, is it expensive?, is it a lot of time?, will the other siblings get jealous?,  is there a lot of drama?, is it worth it?  The answer to all those questions is a resounding YES.

I think about the 12 hour dance dance days, waiting in the car for 5 hour practices, soccer camps, team competitions and a million other things we did for our girls. There we tears about early morning practices, girl drama, coach drama not to mention the mama drama.  We paid out enough in team fees to pay for a vacation home in the Bahamas. We sacrificed vacations, new cars, and sometimes broke the budget to make sure they had every opportunity they had worked for.  We question all the time if we were doing it "the right way", Did we push too hard? or not enough?

There were injuries serious enough to question the future of when to call it quits. I could tell you stories about dance teacher antics, and mean girl stunts that would make your stomach turn.  Team sports is not for the faint of heart.  You do it for the love of what you do and focus on that. There is rejection, being told you're not good enough and that your hair is just not the right color for a part. True story. So why did we keep going?  Because their passion was their dream and you could see it every time they stepped out onto the stage or the field.

It wasn't about the money spent, it was about the values they learned.  There were so many times I wanted to stomp in and tell a coach my opinions. I wanted to yell about the favoritism, the unrealistic expectations of a 30 hours practice week or the mean girls that were relentless. But I didn't.  Most of the time my girls took on the responsibility to work it out themselves.  A quality in youth that is hard to teach these days when its so easier to deal with problems on a device and not face to face.  As hard as it was to let them handle it on their own,  it taught them to take responsibility.

They learned time management, goal setting, personal responsibility, working as a team, fighting for dreams and making new ones.  They learned to always get back up, that getting knocked down was not a bad thing, it was a challenge to do better the next time.  Rejection was bound to happen, don't take it personal, and try again.  I used to try to make excuses when one of my daughters didn't get a part or make an audition.  Till I noticed I was way more upset then they were. They had learned the art of learning from rejection.  A lesson they taught me.

The best thing about helping my girls do what they love was the joy in the journey. That's right don't forget to have fun. Its not always about the win. Sure it feels great to be the best of the best, but the journey will be lost if the focus is always on the end goal.

I had big plans when I saw the talent in each of my girls. I could see it as it all played out in my mind.  College cheer, professional dancer, published writer, high school soccer .....but it didn't at all happen the way I had imagined.  At first I felt like I had let them down somewhere, maybe I didn't help them see the big picture enough but Ive come to realize I just didn't stand back far enough.

Today I watched my 17 year old daughter  as she ran into a previous dance teacher.  He asked what she was up to these days.  My first instinct was a bit of sadness because she's not dancing as much as she did and I have mourned  the loss of what I thought her future might look like.  Until she told me what her answer was.  "I moved on",  she told him.  She proceeded to go on about graduating high school early, plans for college and after 14 years of dancing her heart out, she is now a teacher herself.  Somewhere along the way I got caught up in the fame of it.  Thinking we had to be signed with the top talent agency, goals to audition in LA,  meet all the right people and be in all the right places.  But today, I stood back a little further, and to my great joy I see a girl about to be a woman and a mentor herself.  She can do whatever she wants to, reach for as many stars as she can and is sharing her talent.  I couldn't be more proud.

My cheerleader, now 21, she did continue to cheer in college. She's married now and one of  top art students in her class.  That 12 year old little girl that couldn't get her homework from her desk to her backpack, has a world of opportunity just waiting for her. What we used to call stubbornness was really just determination.  Being apart of a team, is part of what gave her the power to stick to her values and be an example to others.

When my 12 year came to me and said she was done competing soccer,  we simply said ok what's next?  She picked up a skateboard and said" I just want to try new things all the time".  And so we did.  Teaching your kids to live out their dreams doesn't always mean making it on the top competition team.  I pushed a little too hard at times to have them make the best team.  As parents we are the pep squad, the cheer team, the mascot, therapist and assistant coach,  all rolled into one. But most of the time I should have just been mom.  Encouraged, uplifted and been a shoulder to cry on.  So with my last girl, having learned a few things, we simply said "hey, you'll be great at whatever you decide, we are here for you."  She is now considering going back to soccer....for fun.

I guess my point in this whole article is, don't push too hard parents or take it too seriously. You may feel like you're in your own competition with the other kids on the team and even the parents. But you're not. Take a step back see the big picture. If that is their passion, then heck ya we go for it all. And sometimes a little push in the right directions is needed, but don't lose sight of the fun factor. Are they really enjoying it?

Yes it was worth being a team mom and having competitive girls. I did everything under the sun to support their passions and goals. I'm still their biggest fan.  The era of being a team mom is done and life is moving forward without competitions and ribbons.  But now there are celebrations of the goals they have accomplished and I get to be the cheer sections for every single one of them.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Stephenson Christmas Letter 2020

This is our second year in St George. I look back at this year and feel so much gratitude. With all the chaos happening in the world today, I realize we are so blessed to have found this unique oasis to live our lives mostly normal. It has not been without its ups and downs but we are happy. What an amazing thing that is to be able to say. 

What will we as a family remember from 2020? I took a trip to Hawaii with one of my best friends, we actually came back the first few days everything shut down.  Which means we were not prepared for the toilet paper shortage! But we had so much fun and I’m so glad we were able to have this amazing vacation on one of the last weeks people were traveling. 

My secretary job at the resort ended in April as many resorts closed down. But then my job working for a paddle board company took over for the rest of the summer. If you could describe the perfect job for me, this is it. I’m the Marketing Manager for Dig Paddlesports. Not only do I do their social media, I plan and run the events, teach SUP Pilates, instruct beginner paddle board clinics and basically live on the lake until October. I work for the best owners, work with a stellar group of teens and can’t wait for spring. 

Gyms kept going here so I have also been blessed to keep teaching fitness classes. When gyms were at a lower capacity I taught classes on zoom or outdoors. My MS for the most part has been so much better here with all the sunshine I get. I just went through a big relapse but I’m on the uphill of the battle. 

Our only big family trip was Yellowstone cabin again this year. This time with my sister in law Angie, Joe and kids. My MS kicked in with the elevation but we made the best of it. Unfortunately that also means it was probably our last year. I'm really pushin for a beach house vacation. We have created some great memories over the years at the cabin. 

Eric has been busy as ever. He was already working from home so the adjustment to keep working from home wasn’t a big one. The trips to Salt Lake for court have cut way down, so he’s not traveling as much. He bought his dream SUV that could carry his Kayak and all our gear. Then I decided it really needs to be mine since I drive more. He still calls it “his” car.  It’s fine. 

Reagan and Anthony live in Albuquerque, NM. Reagan is coaching gymnastics and Anthony is busy with his art. We were so happy Reagan and Anthony could come to St George for Father’s Day. It had been nearly a year since we were able to see them and have all the girls together. I definitely don’t like having our kids so spread out. Reagan and Anthony are also the proud dog parents of Clemantine. 

Nicki moved home this past March. We love having Nicole here. She works from home with her art work and is a full time big sister. She’s such a huge help to me picking up Ava from school and running half my errands while I work a busy schedule. All my kids have this quick witted humor, they keep laughing all the time. Nicole is funny, I mean really funny and with a heart of gold. 

Madison is in Salt Lake with her boyfriend, John. She got baptized by fire into adulthood. Between the earthquakes and working at a hospital during Covid, she really has had a lot for an 18 year old. Madison is still teaching dance and doing online college classes.  

Ava is a Junior in High School. She loves photography and sports. After many years of knee pain, she finally had surgery to fix all her knee issues. I’ve missed my hiking partner and hope we are in full hiking mode by spring. We hate to admit it but we are that family that watches the Bachelor/Bachelorette together.  We hope its educational for all things NOT to do dating. Or we are the worst parents ever. Ava keeps us on our toes. Something about the last kid that makes you want to enjoy every little moment and not take time for granite. 

We hope this holiday season brings you peace. Our hearts and prayers have gone out to those suffering with poor health, loss of jobs and isolation. I pray the love of Christ will be the guiding influence and light as we head into a new year.  We wish you a Merry Christmas


The Stphenson’s

Friday, April 10, 2020

Staying Motivated to Workout On Your Own

If you have a love of the gym and fitness classes like I do, then suddenly not going to the gym was a shock to the system.  I live for teaching my group fitness classes.  I feed off their contagious energy and get an instant boost of happiness.  I've described before what it's like to stand in front of class,  the first beat of the first song hits and I get a front row seat to an entire group of smiles.  I was less than motivated at first to workout on my own.  But then I decided to still make me a priority.

We're in the middle of what seems to be a health crisis of the entire planet and confined to stay in our homes as much as possible.  And while you want to follow all guidelines for staying home,  part of you panicked a bit not getting your gym fix.  Especially when you not only rely on it for your physical health but your mental health as well.

I shed a few tears the last day of class before the gym locked their doors for next several weeks or months.  I went home feeling at a loss for how I was going to fill my time without my normal schedule.  Then the big question hit me, how was I going to stay motivated myself and not just binge watch Netflix? 

Here are my top tips for staying motivated.

1.  Join a challenge or fitness group on FB or Instagram. 

2. Find your favorite online workouts and do what you can, when you can. 

3.  Start sharing your own tips you've learned from your fitness journey, people want to hear what has worked for you personally.

4. Set a realistic goal.  Even thirty minutes a day and prioritize it.

5.  Involve the kids.  I've seen some of the best workout with kids and teens joining in.

6.  Take it outdoors!  Walk, run, hike it and bike it!  Oh and those cute fur babies need out too.

7.  Brush up on technique.  With all the videos being posted right now its a great opportunity to brush up on form.

It's been a few weeks now of teaching my fitness classes on line.  I kinda love it.  Connecting with more people from all over  the US has been amazing.  In return I also get to take classes that I normally would not be able to attend.  Make no mistake I will be the first one to push through those gym doors when they open back up,  gloved and masked if necessary.  But for now I'm embracing the change and developing as instructor.  I believe this time to reflect on how we do fitness will open doors we had not previously thought about.  Stay healthy and safe my friends.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Making New Girlfriends As An Adult

So you've moved, you're in a new place and everything is different. For a while you stay busy getting the house in order, getting kids settled in their new school, and maybe you've even started a new job. But at some point, you start to miss your girlfriends. You miss your Tuesday lunch dates and just being able to drop by to catch up. It feels like you've lost your safety net, and in all reality you did.

We know what we would tell our kids when it comes to making new friends. "Don't be shy, introduce yourself, invite kids over, go to school activities"....the list goes on.  But what do you do when you're an adult ? We can't go to the high school football game and hope to run into some people, oh no we are middle aged woman who's highlight of the night is probably a trip to Target and buying a new sweatshirt.  So we gotta make a real effort to meet people. 

It's actually more of a shock to the system than you think to suddenly be without the ones you are used to having around.  Women need their girlfriends.  Meeting new people is out of my comfort zone, but then one day you may find yourself talking to the cashier at Swig for 20 minutes about what you're making for dinner and think to yourself maybe you need to get out more.  

Every day for weeks when I dropped my daughter off at her new school , I encouraged her to make new friends, told her how amazing she is and how lucky these kids will be to know her. "Remember who you are, be a good example, I love you....."  Oh yes I yelled it every day as she got out of the car in hope it will make her smile.  It broke my heart to see her miss her old friends and try every day to make new ones.  I knew what she was feeling and I couldn't fix it.  It wasn't easy but she was going for it , so I had to try myself.   

Now if you think clicks at school are hard to break into, try being in a small community of women who have clearly been life long friends. It starts to feel like 10th grage and you just want to be invited to sit at their table. "On Wednesday's we wear pink." > Mean Girls Thankfully some woman have that natural ability to reach out and include the new girl.  

So where do you find a group of 30 to 40 year old women to hang out with?  Costco seems like a happenin place.  Maybe somewhere between the produce and the large box of brownie mix I can stir up a conversation.  I was ready to post in the local Facebook community page. " Looking for group of middle age women to hang out with. Requirements, no partiers, but aren't boring,  are not crazy but fun and adventurous,  like to jog but not marathon speed, dinner and movie are great but I'm in bed by 9.... Anyone interested please comment below." 

My husband didn't know what to do with me, I sulked for weeks. He was great about spending time with me, going on hikes and exploring our new town, but you could watch his eyes roll back in his head when I started to talk about things that only the gals would think is funny.  Like the unexpected breast exam during a routine doctor visit for prescription refills.  Still not sure that was necessary.  And he didn't think shopping and going out for my favorite soda mix was fun at all.  I needed girlfriends.  

So here are a few tips that I have either gathered or tried myself. 

1. Put yourself out there.  Be willing to say "Im new" and introduce yourself.  Chances are there's someone in that crowd that's new too.  Not everyone you meet will "click" that's ok. You will find your people.  And don't let age be a factor. 

2. Find a group with similar interests.  Social media  has several meet up groups for outdoor adventures, senior groups, play groups etc.  Just put a search for your town in Facebook or the web and it should pop up.  Or create a group and start inviting others.  There's even an app for it. 

3. Church. Whatever denomination it is, its a large group of people gathering. This increases your chances quite a bit.  But don't expect everyone to jump to introduce themselves.  Again it's 50% you speaking up.

4. The Gym! Well of course I'd mention the gym, being a fitness instructor is my job.  When I moved here I din't automatically have a bunch of classes to teach so I attended as many classes I could.  A rare treat for me.  But that is where I met some of my closest friends that I have now.  Common interest. 

5. Your kids friends parents.  You're new so if your kid is going to someones house to hang out, of course you are meeting the mom right? This could be an opportunity.  Or at the very least you find out the mom is crazy and you've saved your child from future visits.  (true story) Or its an opportunity to chat it up and your kids are the perfect common ground. 

6. Invite gals to lunch and pedicure. You don't need to be best friends to have a great time.  Laughter really is the best medicine and certainly curbs the lonely days. 

7. Volunteer.  If you find yourself with extra time on your hands, find somewhere to volunteer.  Even just one day a week. 

8. Work friends are easier to make, you see them the most. Just be careful it doesn't interfere with work.  

9. Dog parks. Take Fido for an outing and start up a conversation.  I have to believe that most people are not stalkers and murderers on the side and it's ok to meet a friendly face.   You can run their license plates later if you want. 

10. Host a game night.  Get the significant others involved.  While I know my husband may say he doesn't need friends like somehow its not manly, he had a great time getting out.  

And if all else fails just post on social media that you're ready to join that latest MLM group and you will have 1.552 instant new friends. They will message you every day, call you, take you to lunch all for the price of $$$ (Sarcasm intended)

I get it, friend dating for some of us can be so far out of our comfort zone.  I wanted to stay on my patio couch, cry into the pillows for eternity and assume my dogs would be my only friends.  But then something changed.  It just took that one person to invite me over for lunch. And then we kept adding women to the group.  The great thing is, you're only new once and then you get to be that person that sees the new girl and you will know exactly what to do.  

Remember when you move, especially a big move to a new town, that it takes about a year to feel like its home.  It's ok to miss your friends, close friends will always find a way to connect.  I've moved over 25 times in my lifetime, so I feel like I can give some advice on the topic.  But if you have anything to add, I'd love to hear it.  

On a side note, this doesn't have to just apply to being new in town. All great tips for making friends period.  There are too many women struggling with depression and feelings of loneliness. Please reach out, join in, we can make the difference.  Go team sisterhood. 

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Chronic Illness: Top 12 Tips For Staying Active

I'm 45 and was diagnosed with Intermittent Remission MS in 2012.  Being a fitness instructor and a having chronic condition has had its challenges.  I've learned a few tips over the years but honestly my days don't always go that smooth. There are days when I start off with a whole list of things to do but only get two of them done. And days where I only have energy for a 30 min workout, get my kid to school and crawl back into bed. So where is the balance? There is no magic formula because a chronic illness can change day to day and you have to adapt. The good news is, we are woman and we are resilient! We are going to help each other. 

A chronic disease is one lasting 3 months or more, by the definition of the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics. Chronic diseases generally cannot be prevented by vaccines or cured by medication, nor do they just disappear. * Examples of chronic illnesses are,

There have been several common factors when it comes to the challenges of balancing fitness and managing a chronic condition. Fatigue, lack of motivation, feeling self conscious, low immune, relapses, pain, lack of outside support, and time, are just a few of them. I'm here to remind you, you are not alone! I get it. So let's think about the opposite of all those reasons and see if we can't find a better way. 

I am not a doctor, these are tips I have learned through life experience and personal challenges. My goal is to help motivate others to find a way to just keep moving and feel motivated.

Here are my top 12 tips for managing fitness and life with a chronic condition. As a side note you will find that these tips can apply to anyone!  

1. Always see a Dr. first for a proper diagnosis and get approval for any new fitness routine. 

2. Train with professionals. If you are working with a personal trainer, seek out one that has experience with chronic conditions. It's ok to be picky. Please let your trainer or instructor know ahead of class of any condition. That way modifications can be made if needed. I always appreciate the heads up before class starts. 

3. Any time of day is a good time to workout. Totally up to you. When it comes to fatigue I have tried everything under the sun to combat the brain fog. I try not to do a lot of caffeine, and make sure to talk to your Dr about any supplements. But here's the real truth. I know I'm going to have to just work through the fatigue. If I wait for a full round of energy to suddenly appear I would never make it to the gym. The great thing is I always feel energized when I leave and so grateful I pushed through the 10 minute struggle from the house to the car. 

4. Have FUN. Whatever your fitness regimen is, make it fun. It may include workouts from home, personal trainer, group classes, running, walking, taking a friend to class, dancing in the grocery store (ugh mom really again?) Having fun will keep you motivated. My friend Brooke Petersen says she's stays motivated working out with a friend especially on the "bad" days.  Those are the days when symptoms are more noticeable. So grab a buddy, involve the kids, or find a local group. 

5. This is not an all or nothing plan. Do what you can do. 10 min a day? 2 days a week? There is no wrong answer here. I try to do something active 5-6 days a week. But if I need a day to stay in my pj's and watch Netflix all day, I take it with no guilt. 

6.  When in doubt take the jump out. No need to be a star olympic athlete to join in. Everyone's beginning looks different and there is no body that works the same way. So it reasonable to modify exercises according to your body and energy.   

7. Workout to "feel" good, it's not all about the perfect body. Once I let go of an unrealistic body image and really focused on the healthy feeling I wanted to leave with, my whole outlook changed. If I can step out of a class with a smile on my face and feeling energized, then its been a good workout. 

8.  You're doing better than you think you are. This goes for all you ladies! Don't let that discouraging voice creep in. What's my motto? How much you weigh has nothing to do with how good a mom, wife or friend you are. Fitness is a journey, not a destination at the end of hardest hill you had to climb. Enjoy the even the smallest of accomplishments. There is time and season for all things. My kids are older, and I'm needed less at home so I have more time to be at the gym. If your energy is needed more at home with your little ones, that is the best use of your time and energy. 
"Many, many people struggle with chronic illness. I've come to realize that I'm not alone in this struggle and that everyone is carrying a burden. We can only do what we can do and God makes up the rest. Every time I reach my physical limit, God steps in carries the rest of the load." -Kim Taffti

9. H20! "Stay hydrated and fuel your body with appropriate foods. Moderation in all things." -Kelsey Steed. 
Keep that water close by and eat as clean as you can. But don't deprive yourself. I love a good Coke Zero, and a pink frosted sugar cookie now and then. Most the time I simply listen to what my body needs and not follow any specific diet.  In general chronic condition symptoms like brain fog do better with clean eating. 

10. Look into other specialists. Find a Physical Therapist that specializes or has experience in chronic conditions. PT doesn't just have to be for injuries. Managing pain with massage therapy, chiropractor and pain specialists are all good additional resources. 

11. Take it outside the gym. Nothing like a hike or a bike ride to get heart rate up and breathe in some fresh air. 

12. Get a pet. I'm pretty attached to my fur babies. This won't be for everyone but for me having my two dogs has been an emotional support. When I was first diagnosed I didn't want to be alone and I was home resting a lot. We found the perfect little yorkie poo and brought him home. Without even realizing it I ended up training my dog to be an emotional support dog, because he has been with me since the beginning of my MS. He knows when to comfort me, detect when I'm tired, sense my bad days and curl up to me when I get too cold. 

I would love to hear any additional tips you have found work for you.  Even if you have already commented on my social media, add it here for everyone. There is power and comfort in numbers.  

Now the big news. I will be offering 4 week training sessions for clients with chronic conditions . If you would like to be a part of this group please email me at for details. 

Podcast on being a mom with a chronic condition can be found at


Saturday, July 14, 2018

My Top 12 Tips For Being Married Happily Ever After

I am 90% happily married, because let's be real no one is a 100% happy in their marriage.  Even if they do post a picture with a heart around it, claiming they've never fought. Not only have I been married for 25 years, I've know my husband for 30 years. We met when I was just 15 years old. We were best friends, not even dating until one day he woke up and realized I was crazy about him. By then I was 20 years old and ready for him to dump his current girlfriend and propose to me.  The rest is history and we were married July 15th, 1994.
Sounds like a picture perfect relationship right? It had all the right fairytale details but the truth was, I had no idea how to be a wife. I was raised in a very dysfunctional home with a lot of yelling, door slamming and verbal abuse. Somehow I thought getting married myself would mean I could start fresh and make my own relationship a fairytale.  But that was not the picture perfect story that unfolded. My Prince charming had flaws and I was no princess.

I have created a list of tips. The best of what I have learned over the years. What you choose to do with it is entirely up to you.  You don't even have to agree with it.  And in another 10 years I'm sure I'll add more to it.

1.  Don't try to fix each other.  I knew what I was getting into when we got married.  It was no surprise what our personalities were like. I was once told to pick the top 10 things that drive me nuts about him and then let them go. Not to say that we haven't grown together and improved on the things we've needed to work on. But I see no sense in wasting energy on the small stuff.  Do I hate that the clothes never make into a laundry basket? Of course! But his clothes are on my floor.  He comes home every night to me because he worked all day for our family.  Take a deep breath and let it go. 

2. I believe in going to bed angry.  Most of the time you are just tired and worn out from a long day.  Staying up all night to fight and figure it all out may get you nowhere.  Chances are when you wake up it won't seem nearly as bad. If it does, you can think more clearly to resolve it together.  And if all else fails, take your shirt off.  That's right ladies I went there.  No man can even think straight let alone focus enough to even remember why he was mad if he's staring at you topless. Nine times out of ten that fight will be over. (Obviously no children are around) ha ha.  It's advice I've now given to my married daughter. 

3. Freedom is important. I am so thankful to have a husband that has never put requirements on my time. I've always been able to go out with friends, have girls weekend, or time to myself.  Even when the girls were little, we found a way.  I was home all day being a wife and mom and those free times were important.  In return I tried to make being at home a place he could relax and have his own time. 

4. Listen to each other.  Communication is key. We are both hot-headed people. Sometimes I can hang on to my pride for a very long time. Which means I will have the last word! Not a good moment for me. But then something happened that changed my view. I got a lifelong illness, it made me too tired to argue. So I began to listen, and realized that's all he needed in the first place.  Men are simple. I'm not saying that in a mean way, but they are not hard to figure out.  Sex, food, and sleep are the three things to keep them happy.  If lacking in one, you'll know it.  Women on the other hand, get all touchy feely and have emotional needs. I can stop talking for days if I don't feel like I'm getting any attention.  Like I'm waiting for him to read my mind and figure it out. A simple conversation would have done the trick. "Hey could we go for a walk...."

5. Being respectful in private and in public. I was raised without this concept and it took me longer than it should to practice it. What you say about your spouse in front of children especially, sticks with them. Saying anything disrespectful in public is meant to demean, embarrass and has no place in a marriage. Kindness matters and is the only way to stay in love, and not just for the health insurance.

6.  The two of you come first. Yes the kids are the top of the list and they are the light of your life, but when they come first too often, your marriage will start lacking the oxygen it needs to stay alive.  Another lesson I learned that hard way.  Don't make yourself so busy that you become the last thing of each other's lists.

7. To the women reading this. Be kind to yourself.  In 25 years of marriage I have gone up and down with weight, depression, and anxiety.  I worried too often that my husband wouldn't love me as much if I didn't look a certain way.  It was years before I believed that what he loved was me being a confident strong woman, a loving mom to our girls, and seeing me do my best. That includes being loving to him. But I also believe we can make being at home all day an excuse to let ourselves go. Maybe not everyday but make that extra effort to put yourself together. Caring about yourself is sexy.

8.  Laugh often! Flirt even more.  Before kids, we could stay up all night talking and then sleep until noon.  Having kids made those talks a happen little earlier and less often, but we have remained the best of friends. We can laugh until we cry. Our kids think we are nuts. After knowing each other so long there are things that no one else even thinks is funny but I crack up.  Our children make us laugh, one of our favorite things to do is turn off the TV and just laugh and talk with our girls. And flirt, yes flirt. Don't ever lose that.  It will embarrass your kids as they grow up and catch on, but its healthy. We are not big on PDA but somehow we haven't lost the art of flirting. I would rather have my kids remember their parents being "gross" than not showing any affection.

9. Be selfless in all you do. Jump at the chance to serve each other without expecting anything in return.  When we got married, I whispered "Don't forget the little things." I wanted to always do the small things that made each other happy. When he brings me home a drink or scrapes off my windshield, that is love. 

10. Support each others dreams.  It may mean taking turns at different points of your life but just like you want everything for your children, so should you want that for your spouse.  Do everything in your power to keep that creativity and dream alive. It may be a hobby or career but go down that road together.

11. Be ok with making mistakes. You will make them, in marriage, and in parenting. How we handle it is what's really important. Sincerely apologize and figure out how to do better next time and move on. Even with my teenagers I whole heartily admit I do not know everything about parenting and ask for patience as I figure it out. Holding on to grudges effects you personally and damages the strongest of relationships. Not all situations can be resolved that easily but when the situation allows, forgive and hug it out. 

12. Hold tight to your faith in God.  This may not be for everyone but it is for our home and marriage. Our belief in God has carried us through every mountain of trials and made the happy moments even more special. Being married to a man that shows his faith in God has given me the strength to move forward many times when I just didn't have it in me.  I knew at the age of 21 when we were married that our faith would be the binding glue to keep us together. It gives us purpose, hope, guidance, and so much more. 

No, marriage is not a fairytale. It takes time, learning from mistakes, and a lot work. But with all that comes all the beautiful moments, memories, and children. It's been worth every moment. The best part is, there will be a Happily Ever After.  Just minus the castle.