Are you a yo-yo fitness dieter?

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All exercise is healthy. Right?

Not so much.

While there isn’t anything wrong with any one training modality, form of exercise or exercise class, per se, the mindset and practice we cultivate around it can be damaging, for sure, toxic even.
It can foster feelings of hatred, resentment, failure, and frustration towards physical activity and exercise and therefore becomes a TOTALLY counterproductive thief of our joy!


Come see what I mean!



Raise your hand if you’re someone that is either “On the exercise wagon” or completely 100% off of it.


Do you have a rigid idea in your mind of what exercise needs to look like?

Does it need to take a certain amount of time? Occur in a specific place in certain clothes?

Does it have to look exactly like what your peers are doing? What celebrity “X” is using to get her amazing body?


Does it always have to leave you pouring sweat and gasping for air?

Do you believe that if you miss a day you will fall behind? Lose momentum? Lose results? Gain weight? Backslide into old habits?



This is the sort of mindset that I used to have around exercise and just like with dieting, I was TOO restrictive and so I never found my groove. I would binge, restrict, binge restrict, overdoing it with BOTH sedentary AND active phases-never finding the balance between training, moving and resting.



I never could figure out how to make my fitness and movement practice just a part of my life because I had REAL rigid ideas of what I needed to do in fitness in order for it to “count.”

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Can you relate?

I was either running 6 miles a day 5 days a week, or nothing.
I was sticking to a strict schedule, attending a certain class, consistently using only one training modality or I was doing nothing.
And I wasn’t “healthy” when I was exercising hard and constantly.
I became injured, I was tired. I lost my appetite…



Just like when we are on a diet, I felt locked in by “the rules” .
Whose rules? I have no idea.
I’m sure they were a combination of

  • what I saw others doing

  • what fitness culture was telling me was “effective” and

  • whatever routine was JUST enough out of reach that striving for it made me feel like I was really accomplishing something-making up for lost time. I mean if it didn’t sort of feel like punishment, would it even work? Was it enough?




Consequently I was happy for excuses to skip out on workouts, miss runs, take it easy.
And when I was “off the wagon” I missed how exercise made me feel but I NEVER actually missed the exercise itself.
I didn’t miss the pressure, the feelings of failure, the guilt when I “skipped” a workout.
And the more I grew accustomed to this cycle of inactive vs. super active , the more I had to REALLY PUMP MYSELF UP to want to get back into the active part of the cycle, because I didn’t enjoy it-even if I felt there was an aspect of it that did make me feel better.


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But my sedentary habits weren’t make me feel great either.
My mood and digestion would suffer. My body was achy and I felt like I was craving movement!

So I would find something new- a new class at the gym, swimming, training for triathlons, lifting weights and that worked for a while, but I finally realized that it wasn’t the exercise itself that was the problem, it was my mindset.

I was too restrictive.
I was dieting, white knuckling it, so super perfectionist and holding myself to standards that I thought were what I needed to do in order to get results!





It wasn’t until I had my second baby that out of necessity, I began to change my mindset and FINALLY found my groove with training and movement.


Here are the guidelines that I used to cultivate a consistent and life nourishing relationship with movement and exercise! THESE ARE NOT RULES, but simply a framework that I used to integrate movement and fitness into my lifestyle and get out of the cycle of fitness dieting!





  1. Move daily-no matter what it looks like, and do it outside when you can!

    1. I knew that movement made me feel good. I knew that getting outside in the sun and fresh air was good for my mental health, vitamin D and my babies, toddler and infant at the time.
      So I made a commitment to move every day in one respect or another, no matter for how long or how it looked.

    2. Movement took place in a number of different forms, but it happened.
      Often it was a leisure walk around the neighborhood with kids in the stroller.
      Sometimes it was yoga in the living room with them close by.
      Other times it was just crawling around in the grass in the backyard or doing some raking or simply doing yard work while the littles were hanging with me outside.
      And several times a week, when I could make it work, it would be some version of a short workout.

    3. Moving daily in all the different ways helped me to maintain momentum. It made the hurdle of getting up or getting out to move, far less intimidating and when I had the time and energy to do so, it made it FAR easier to get in a real workout, because I was already used to moving, and now I just had to move a little more intensely for a period of time.

    4. Yes there were days when no intentional movement happened either because I was tired, the kids were sick, or whatever, but on those days, I missed my movement practice and because I had such lax requirements for what movement needed to “look like” it made it easier to get back to it!



  2. Strength train your body-

    1. I transitioned away from an “exercise” mentality and gradually started to train my body. I trained for strength, resilience, body composition changes and endurance.

    2. I realized that part of my problem with exercise was that there was never any clear goal. For me, exercise was largely about showing up to burn off calories or fat, lean out…and those are such nebulous goals that are not always appropriate for new nursing mommas (which I was at the time), are difficult to measure, and impacted by our hormonal cycles. I needed a clear bullseye, I wanted something to work towards, so strength and endurance because my new targets.

      1. This was awesome because regardless of how many calories I burned doing one set of pushups in my kitchen while emptying the dishwasher, I knew for certain that I was building strength and getting better at pushups.

      2. Maybe sprints in the driveway didn’t take the full 60 minutes that I had believed and exercise class needed to take, but I could feel my legs, core and reflexes growing stronger, my speed and lung capacity were increasing and I didn’t need more than 10 minutes for a sprint workout.

    3. Besides, strength training was convenient for me. I could leave weights in any room of the house and do a few rods of weighted squats while the kids played on the floor. I could throw a kettlebell in the bottom of the stroller, walk to the play ground and work on my swing. I could bring bands to the park or out in the backyard to do some presses or pull aparts while the babies napped in the stroller.






  3. I learned to view rest part of my process-

    1. Whether you’re an elite athlete or a total amateur momma just trying to hold it together while you care for two young kids, you need REST and RECOVERY! I had totally bought into the mindset that we are supposed to exercise almost EVERY DAY, 5 to 6 days a week for sure! And if we didn’t, we weren’t doing enough to get good results. But there is no science to support that this approach over time is the best option for all people and there is PLENTY of science that shows if we don’t rest, recover, sleep and move gently between training sessions, we will get hurt, we will create loads of chronic inflammation, we will NOT get good results.

      So I started to make rest part of it!
      I even learned about some of the hormonal benefits of resting in my life, between rounds, between workouts, or whenever I needed it. Rest was intentional.
      Rest was strategic.
      Rest was what was going to keep me consistent with my fitness and movement practices!



  4. #persistenceoverperfection became my new motto for life-

    1. Moving away from rigid expectations and approaches to exercise helped me to finally get consistent.

      Movement and training because actions that NOURISHED me. I wanted them to be a part of my life, so I began to prioritize them.
      I also knew that if I was tired, training wasn’t going to be good for me, that movement was OFTEN the key to feeling better about my day, even when everything felt like it was falling apart and I was constantly failing,
      And I saw the value of rest because resting one day almost ensured that I would get back into my training or movement practice of BOTH the next day.

    2. The more lax I because in my expectations, the more disciplined I actually wanted to be.
      The more I gave myself a pass to shorten my workouts, or not train at all, the easier it became for me to make them happen. Sure maybe it would take me ALL day to get in 4 rounds of a simple 5 minute circuit consistent of 4-5 exercises, but I would do it! And because I did, I became more consistent, got the best physical results I have ever gained form exercise and I finally had a relationship with fitness and movement that wasn’t one of obligation and guilt.
      It was there FOR ME to make me better and when I was rested and had the time I would use it to the best of my ability that day, because I was PERSISTENT in my pursuit of movement and fitness practices, but I was NO LONGER perfectionist about what it needed to look like.




What about you?
Are you stuck on the “on again, off again” fitness dieting cycle?
Do you feel locked into a specific approach to exercise?
Are you consumed with the message that exercise needs to kick your ass and burn ALL the calories in order to be of value?


Share your thoughts in the comments below!


IF YOU WANT TO TRY A NEW AND DIFFERENT APPROACH-you can download my Strong Guts n’ Butts movement protocol AND or my 5 minutes circuits that can be done at home with MINIMAL equipment!

Sign up below!

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Sarah Smith is a personal trainer, level two Russian  Kettlebell Instructor, postnatal fitness specialist and pelvic floor and gut health advocate working online and in Raleigh, North Carolina. 
She specializes in helping women online and in-person feel strong, confident and capable in their bodies!

Sarah is a mom to three boys and one English Bulldog. She loves soil, coffee and not folding laundry. 

Write here…




Why I created Kettlebells For Cool Kids and why YOU should do it!

1. People need access to more kettlebell training that doesn’t just whip them into shape, but ensures longevity and enjoyment in their fitness practice (aka doesn’t hurt them).

From breathing patterns to pelvic position, core muscle development and alignment, WOMEN ESPECIALLY need education and support on how to train SMART to prevent weakening or over-training their cores and pelvic floors.

Read More

You Compare Yourself

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Over a hundred women signed up for the #topdowntguchallenge  this week.

Every day we learn a tiny piece of the Turkish get-up and practice ONLY THAT ONE PART. 
 

It's been SO AWESOME to see all of these women working on learning the Turkish get-up OR working on improving their technique. 

They are slowing down the movement. 
Taking time to breath and become more aware of how their body moves. 
They are becoming acquainted with the get-up on a WHOLE new level. 
And you know what?

Because of all that, their technique is damn good. 

 

When you’re doing a challenge like this, it’s easy to get caught up in the game of comparing yourself to others. 

With social media, we can check and see how other people are doing and WHEN we see someone that we perceive to be “doing better” than us,  we can’t help but feel discouraged. 
Same goes for ANYTIME we begin a new fitness practice. 

If we are going to the gym or a class, we look around and observe where other people are. 
We begin to size them up and then move on to ourselves... 

“I’ll never look like that.”

“I’ll never be that good.”

“I’m too old to do this.”

“I’ve had too many [babies, injuries, too few years in fitness], etc. to ever be that fit.”


 

Personally, I look at people online ALL OF THE TIME and accidentally put them on a pedestal. 

I look at their level of fitness or business success (in the video of photo posted online, which isn’t always the whole story…) and I make judgementsabout themabout myselfabout my process

 

And SOMETIMES that briefly stops me from progressing. 

Sometimes that makes me feel bad about where I am and discourages me from continuing to work.

 

But over the years I have learned that EVERYTHING I WANT OUT OF LIFE is on the other side of those feelings. 
 

I HAVE to break through them, if I’m ever going to get anywhere. 

I have to mute the messages in my head or online that tell me, “I’m not good enough.” OR “I can’t be me.”

 

With the #topdowntguchallenge, we are seeing lots of different people moving intentionally, beautifully, and I’m telling you, I am SUPER impressed by what you all are doing. 

 

I especially love the posts that say, “I didn’t think I could do this, but I did it!!”

I mean, that’s what this challenge is all about. 

That’s what strength training and kettlebell work is all about!

Learning to see ourselves as capable people that can grow and challenge ourselves, improve and do amazing things. 

 

And our process won’t look like anyone else’s. 

Our bodies aren’t going to look like other people’s either. 

My geometry is not your geometry, so my movement will take a different shape than yours and yours will take a different shape than someone else’s. 

Yes there are fundamental guidelines that we follow for technique and safety, but the body interprets these things in it’s own unique and beautiful way. 

 

Practice is practice. 

Progress is progress. 

And people are people. 

 

We are all different. 

Always, always let your process meet you where you are TODAY and lead you to where YOU WISH TO GROW. 

 

Don’t get distracted when you see other people potentially progressing faster than you, or looking more “perfect” than you. 

Keep your head down. 

Maintain your focus. 

 

I promise you, all those people you compared yourself to will start to fade away into the background and you will like where you end up.

You will feel proud of yourself.

 

If you want to learn more about the Top Down Turkish Get-Up Challenge OR get on the waitlist for my upcoming 10 week Kettlebell Instruction and Workout course,  Kettlebells For Cool Kids! 
Head to this website now! www.kettlebellsforcoolkids.com
 

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Sarah Smith is a personal trainer, level two Russian  Kettlebell Instructor, postnatal fitness specialist and pelvic floor and gut health advocate working online and in Raleigh, North Carolina. 
She specializes in helping women online and in-person feel strong, confident and capable in their bodies!

Sarah is a mom to three boys and one English Bulldog. She loves soil, coffee and not folding laundry. 

Why you don't want to use another person as the standard for what YOU should be

"After all that, I'm just ready to be me." -Lauryn Hill

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I'm work fitness. 
I help women stretch beyond their comfort zones and grow. 
I help them find time in their days and space in their lives to care for their bodies with movement and training. 
I help them crush goals, change how they feel in their bodies and even change aspects of their physique. 

I do NOT tell them that they have to be like me. 
I do NOT encourage them to look to Pinterest boards and fitness models as inspiration for whom they should become. 

I have an online presence that features me working out, sharing my accomplishments, challenging others to do more in their lives. 
I follow other women that are crushing online. 
I look to them and their accomplishments with admiration. 
I use them to challenge me. 

I work HARD to make sure that I refrain from EMULATING them or believing that I have to do exactly what they are doing to be successful, to be happy. 
 



You see, I am 100% in opposition of is the idea that we should EVER make another individual human being the standard for what WE SHOULD BE. 



I spent from age 13 to 19 suffering chronic whiplash from always looking around at what EVERYONE else was doing and using that as a measure of what I needed to be. 

Consequently I had NO direction. 
I felt like a failure and a fraud. 
I pretty much hated my life. 


At 19 years old I had two amazing faculty members at the University of New Hampshire, that changed my life. 
They saw me. 
They saw my talents and my potential for the successful achievement of goals. 
They believed in me. 
They weren't confused about who I was. 
They weren't comparing me to anyone else. 
They weren't telling me to become something else. 
They simply let me know that I was capable and that I could cultivate a life for myself beyond what I was doing now. 
I could do better. 

And never in a "you don't measure up" sort of manner, but in a, "I see you. You got this," sort of way. 

And suddenly I wanted to change EVERYTHING. 
I wanted to invest in myself. 
I wanted to expand my comfort zone and pursue all the things that I wanted out of life. 

I saw fellow students buckling down and succeeding in school and I went after MY OWN version of that. 

I saw my friends enjoying their hobbies and academic pursuits and I wanted to figure out how to do that for myself too!

I took a hard look at the habits, relationships and activities in my life that WERE NOT working and I changed them. 

I took another job. 
I moved. 
I studied like I had NEVER studied before. 
I set goals. 
I wrote them down. 
I changed who I spent time with. 
I found new tasks and activities that actually nourished me. 

My life suddenly looked like no one else's around me and you know what. 
It was good. 

 

And so now, you know, I understand that it was because I was measuring myself or trying to compare myself to a standard that wasn’t reality. It wasn’t the standard at all, you know. There’s a scripture in the Bible that we, what does it say, it says ‘We compare ourselves amongst ourselves’ you know. That’s not the standard. You already are the standard. What are you trying to fit into a standard for? We were each created to be individual standards, you know. And we’re trying to fit into a standard? It doesn’t make any sense, you know....After all that, I’m just ready to be me.
— Lauryn Hill, Unplugged
  Click the image to listen to and read these lyrics about why we shouldn't compare ourselves to others!!

Click the image to listen to and read these lyrics about why we shouldn't compare ourselves to others!!



Of course this took place over a couple of years and while I learned this incredibly important lesson early in life, I have had to re-learn it and grow it and build upon it time and time again. 
BUT the foundation that nineteen year old Sarah Smith laid has FOREVER impacted my life and helped me to stop chasing everyone else and invest in my own life. 


And this is why I feel so passionately about speaking out against the MANY messages in fitness, social media and popular culture that tell you, 
"Be this_______[insert snapshot of popular, fit, successful person]."

Especially for pre and postnatal women, women struggling with their body image, confidence, self respect and a sense of place in this world. 
Because when we are in theses states we are vulnerable. 
We can be more susceptible to harmful messaging. 
We can do ourselves harm chasing standards set for us by the culture EVEN when we don't know that we are doing it. 


That nineteen year old young woman that was affected by what everyone else around her was doing, she came out again during my third pregnancy and postpartum period. 


I found myself being affected by what fitness culture was telling me pregnant and early postpartum women should be doing, looking like, be capable of. 

I didn't even know that I was doing it!

I was working my ass off. 
Training, lifting, chasing kiddos, not always eating enough, exhausted, a little fried...

Why?
Because I thought that's what you did. 

And then I injured my body. 


The good thing about my injury is that it taught me that I could no longer copy what anyone else was doing. 

NO one readily accessible to me rehabbing pelvic floor dysfunction, diastasis recti, pelvic organ prolapse AND training with kettlebells. 

I had to look to my own body. 
I had to pay attention to my own life. 
I had to work around my own restrictions and capitalize on my own strength.  
Once again I had to stop using what others were doing as my meter stick for success and fitness. 

And it was good!
I now am SUPER outspoken about the fact that pelvic floor dysfunction, pelvic organ prolapse and other injuries shouldn't stop you from living your life and crushing your goals. 

But I the way that I train and the messages that I share are always based on the idea that we need to learn what works for us as individuals. 
We need to challenge ourselves to grow. 
But trying to keep up with other people and do exactly what they are doing is both an empty, dangerous and unsatisfying pursuit. 

At the end of the day, we are 100% responsible for shifting our focus and our mindset from looking to other people to learn "What we should be."

But I also know how impactful it was to have two very successful intelligent people in my life say, "I see you. You can do more. Dig in and grow. "

And so that's what I do with my coaching and my online community. 

I see you. 
You can do it!
It doesn't have to look like what anyone else is doing to be good, valuable...to be a success. 


 

When it comes to fitness, vagina and vulva health matters and yes we can talk about it!

I first began to work with female athletes in 2004, they were high school track athletes. 

Two days into the job, I realized how much our fitness and athletic performance is tied to our unique female anatomy and how being one of the only female coaches was going to mean I better have some tampons and pads handy 24/7.

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So what's the deal with pubic hair removal????

Well, pubic hair is basically like eyebrows and eyelashes for your vagina. 
Like the eye, the vaginal canal is a sensitive part of the body open to the outside world!
It is susceptible to invasion and infection by bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoans. 
As a moist environment with mucosa-lined membranes, it can provide the exact niche preferred by some of these foreign invaders. 

The coarseness and shape of the hair makes it easier to trap foreign particles like dust, pollen, pathogenic bacteria....


So if you're like me, you might be thinking, "Ok, but is that still necessary in the modern era? How likely is it that foreign particles are going to get into my Lululemon leggings that I can barely get into myself?"

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Microbiology, diarrhea, constipation, the pelvic floor and whole body strength: Things you have to know about getting stronger!

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Greetings from snowy Raleigh, North Carolina!

We woke up to a wintery wonderland this morning and while this former New Englander isn't a huge fan of wintery weather, I secretly think the snow today is rather beautiful. 
 


This winter I've been taking more time to write. 
In fact, I'm going back to my microbiology roots and talking about the gut microbiome and its influence on metabolism and whole body strength. 
My new project is called "Strong butts and guts: increasing whole body strength with microbiology and natural daily movement"...or something like that..



For those of you that don't know, before I was a trainer, I worked in microbiology, first on the health front at the National Institutes of Health, then as environmental microbiologist at the University of Arizona and finally finished with a masters in soil and agricultural science at North Carolina State University. 
I. LOVE. MICROBES. 


My husband has been a pest management professional  and self-proclaimed "bug geek" for close to 15 years now and the other day I realized,
"Oh my goodness, I'm totally a bug geek too!" 
Just a different kind of bug....the microscopic kind!

The amazing thing is that I never ever ever would have thought that my love for microbiology would be SO RELATED to my job as a trainer and lifestyle coach. 


But we are learning more every day about the far-reaching influence of the trillions of microbes that live in our gastrointestinal system (the gut). 



Nutrient absorption, to metabolic regulation, cravings, energy, sleep, muscle synthesis, hormonal regulation (very important for both metabolism and building lean muscle) the gut is an INTEGRAL part of all of these functions of the body. 
 


One of the biggest issues that we are facing in modern life is that lack of movement, little time outdoors and the Standard American Diet are all killing the ancestral strains of microbes that have been evolving with us since the beginning. 
These strains are designed to keep us alive and well and fully functioning, because we are engaged in a symbiotic relationship that is mutually beneficial!


They keep our bodies running like a top, we provide them with a safe place to live, aka, food and shelter. 

BUT these strains of bacteria (many of which derived from the soil, we inoculated ourselves by being outside and eating foods that were grown in the dirt) are not happy. 
In fact, they are dead (or close to it) in many a gut!

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Herbicides, pesticides, antibiotics, oral contraceptives, many prescription medications, loads of processed sugar, food additives (like guar and xanthan gums), and artificial sweeteners (Splenda!) are killing off the good guys (dubbed "Gut Guardians" by Dr. Grace Liu) in our gut microbiome,  and leaving room for nasty ones that historically were kept in check by the guardians. 


Consequently we are seeing more and more food sensitivities,  autoimmune diseases, inflammatory bowel syndromes and diseases (which by the way are symptoms, not medical conditions), chronic fatigue, inefficient metabolisms, mental emotional health conditions....and the list goes on. 

 

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My interest was peaked when I realized that the pelvic floor is strongly impacted by the gut, makes perfect sense since they are neighbors!

So I have launched a whole research project into better understanding how our lifestyle, and nutrition habits are impacting our guts and how our guts are impacting our abilities to build strong bodies!


AND logically, I'm writing an ebook on the topic. 

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I'm not totally out of depth here, I am a published author in a bunch of other super obscure topics (look to the right!)
But never have I ever written something about which I feel so much passion. 

So, e-book is coming. 
As part of my Inner Circle you will be learning about how your gut is impacting your body and ways to get it on board with you and your personal goals. 

Today I am sharing a link to a recent blogpost that I wrote on the interactions between the gut and the pelvic floor. 
 

 

 


It's written to coaches and trainers, and I know that some of you are that!
BUT it's about all of us, so don't skip it if you don't work in fitness. 
YOU NEED TO KNOW THIS STUFF in order to protect yourself and possibly even get to the bottom of some chronic health issues that you've been ignoring!

The post is mostly about diarrhea, constipation, bloating and how irregular digestion is negatively impacting our pelvic floor, potentially causing pelvic organ prolapse and incontinence of ALL kinds. 

I'd love for you to check it out here and leave comments!

This effects us all!

This is what happens when we reject the pressure to be perfect

" I actually made a great change, I decided that diet soda is a non negotiable for me. 
So bad for you, but I love it.  I use to drink it all day, constantly.  Over the years it has decreased and now I have stopped drinking it Mon-Thurs and have one diet soda, Fri-Sun.....That is huge for me!


-Dana, Cultivate for Life 2016 client who has lost 60 lbs in the past year!!!!!!

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