My ultimate goal for my clients is to educate them on changing their lifestyle- not doing 21 day fixes or detoxes, not counting x amount of calories per day, not searching for more weight to lose or more body parts to change. With my client Jes, I feel like I have accomplished my goal with her. I have been training her for over a year now and she has lost over 25lbs and went from a size 10/12 to a solid 6/8. We started with small lifestyle changes which she has now molded into her everyday life. She makes time to move more, eat healthier, recover and train with me twice a week. I wanted to share her story because I am constantly inspired by her. My goal with this post is to help anyone who might feel "stuck" and not sure where to begin. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Jes.
- What is your health and fitness background?
In my youth, I was very active. I ran track. I was on the gymnastic team in high school. As I moved into adulthood, I fell out of the habit entirely. Especially over the past few years - I had gotten to a point where I was almost entirely sedentary.
- What made you decide you needed to get healthy?
One of the things that brings me joy in life is travel, adventure travel. I really like to experience a place (not sit in a resort). I was finding it more and more difficult to keep up, even doing things that should be simple like walking. I was also overweight. In my early 40s (and not getting any younger), I was concerned about avoiding weight-related health issues (diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.) that I see my family members struggle with. Even though losing weight influenced my decision, I used the motivation of supporting the thing that brings me joy - being physically fit enough to do the travel I love - as something to focus on to keep me going.
- How did you start? Did you read blogs/articles/seek advice?
I’m a researcher by nature, so I started googling and reading about different methods of training - tons of articles. I knew I had to find something that interested me if I was going to increase my likelihood of sticking with it. I also had real concerns about doing something incorrectly and getting injured. I started ruling things out like weight machines and distance running and the aggressiveness of Crossfit. And while I’ve enjoyed yoga and pilates in the past, I was really looking for more strength straining to help combat my osteoarthritis combined with opportunities to improve my endurance. My research led me to TRX and functional fitness - it made sense to me. I was also looking to work with a personal trainer who could help me where I was, in the shape I was, both to help keep me motivated and to make sure I was doing exercises correctly to get the most benefit and not injure myself.
- How did you switch up your nutrition?
Working from home, I had gotten into a really bad pattern of not eating all day and then eating a big (usually not-so-healthy) meal for dinner. It may sound a little ironic, but one of the first things that made a big difference was for me to eat MORE. It took some work (and I had to almost force myself at first) to get used to eating meals throughout the day to fuel my body. Luckily, I actually like healthy food, so that wasn’t a stretch for me - it was much more about eating regularly. And making healthy choices instead of *just* convenient ones.
- Take us through a day of eating?
I’ve had to figure out what works for ME, my schedule and my interests. First thing in the morning is usually coffee, and then a little more coffee, plus a protein bar or a little fruit to give me some energy before personal training or morning exercise. Mid-morning after exercising I have a smoothie. I use plant-based protein powder (I’m lactose intolerant) and frozen fruit/veg. It’s fast and easy. For lunch, I generally have a salad with protein or a prepared healthy meal from Freshly. Dinner is honestly often take out / delivery (I have a busy schedule and I really hate cooking), but I consider my choices carefully. It’s awesome that I live in a foodie town and have a ton of great options available to me. I’ll also snack a little during the day too (see next question). And as an occasional treat - a little dark chocolate or non-dairy ice-cream. NadaMoo and Ben & Jerry’s almond milk ice creams are my faves.
- What are you favorite snacks?
Like most most people, I could mindlessly munch on something so I try to keep only better options in the house and I’ll put whatever snack I have in a bowl so I won’t eat the whole bag. Some of my faves? Carrots and hummus (my dogs dig the carrots too), nuts (almonds, raw cashews) or air-popped popcorn. I also really like fruit/nut/protein bars like LaraBars and Kind Bars.
- What do you do to set yourself up for a successful day?
For me, routine is super important. It was also one of the most useful things for me when I first started. It helped me move from an attitude of “ugh, I have to exercise” to “oh it’s 8:00am, time to work out” (because that’s just what I do now at 8am). In the beginning, I also tracked a ton of data to help keep me motivated and to help me see the little changes so I could celebrate the little wins.
- What has been your biggest challenge you've faced so far?
One of my biggest challenges is when my routine gets interrupted. Earlier this year, I went on vacation and then got sick after I came home. Before I knew it I’d missed an entire month of working out with any regularity and my eating was WAY off. It took a while to bounce back from that. It was an eye-opener about how effective all the little changes I’ve made are adding up.
I’m also challenged by chronic health conditions like fibromyalgia and degenerative inflammatory osteoarthritis. There are days when I just can’t physically do as much and it’s frustrating. But the deal I made with myself is as long as I give 100% on the day - whatever my 100% may be that day - then I can be proud.
- When did you start to notice your body changing?
I believe it was about 4-6 weeks in when I first said “woah!” I’d lost a measurable amount of weight. Clothes that hadn’t fit in a long while fit again some of my clothes totally didn’t fit any more - they were too big!. But what was really cool was to recognize what I could physically do and how much my strength and endurance had improved. To compare where I was when I first started to where I was (something I still do) was really exciting. Also, seeing and feeling muscle definition that I hadn’t had in a long time was super cool. I’ll admit, I was actually flexing my arms to see my biceps.
- When did others start to notice your body changing?
I think other people really noticed at that 4-6 week point too. But I think that they may have also noticed my confidence. Seeing changes in myself, I was feeling so much better emotionally and I’m sure I was projecting that more which gave me a bit of a “glow.”
- What is the best part of this fitness journey?
One thing that I didn’t totally expect is how beneficial it’s been for my mental health. I’ve learned more since I started this health and fitness journey about the definite mind-body connection, which has been studied and well-documented (so it’s science not just fluffy feel-good stuff). While I feel physically so much better and so much more capable, the impact on my total health - both physically AND mentally - has been dramatic.
- What advice can you give to people looking to change their lives as you are?
A very specific piece of advice that I can give is to set your first time-based goal at about 6 months. This seems to be a magic number of sorts. It’s not so long that it seems unachievable, because the thought of making a whole lifestyle change can be daunting, overwhelming. But it’s also enough time to keep you moving long enough to build a real, new set of healthy habits. I started 6-months before a birthday. In the beginning when it was honestly really hard, I would tell myself, “I can do this until my birthday.”
Another piece of advice is to find a way to recognize and celebrate the little wins. For me it was tracking lots of data in the beginning. I tracked workouts, weight, inches, percentages, photos… this let me see the little changes and I celebrated every single one, no matter how small. Gradually, I tracked less and less because I didn’t need it as motivation, but I still try to recognize my accomplishments on a regular basis.
And if you are able, work with a personal trainer. They’ll believe in you before you are ready to be able to believe in yourself. They’ll help you recognize your little wins when you can’t or don’t see them. They’ll give you the push you need if you’re having trouble motivating yourself. I consider my trainer to be vital member of my health care team and one of the best investments I’ve ever made.
See! Jes is amazing. I am so proud to coach her along her journey. She is always striving for more and always determined for more challenges. I hope this interview could bring you some inspiration if you are thinking of starting a fitness journey, in the middle of one, or on the tail end of one and want to keep going! If you need some help, I'm here! Shoot me a message and lets get your fitness journey started.
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." - Lao Tzu