An Open Letter to the Average Female Gym Goer

To the average female gym goer,

I’m sorry my love of fitness makes you feel bad about yourself. I understand your struggle. I have felt that way countless times as I looked in the mirror or talked to a gym representative. Check my Google search history over the past few years and you’ll see variations of the phrases “I want to get toned” or “I want to lose weight” all over the place. Even now, as someone who has finally fallen in love with fitness, is running a sports supplement company, and has achieved a look others love, hate, or envy, I can’t help but search for that one exercise that will really help with a troubled region (even though I wholeheartedly know spot reducing isn’t actually possible). So, I understand that we’ve been taught misguided rules as to what it means to be healthy, sexy, and in shape, but I want you to know that it doesn’t need to be that way.

Throughout high school and college I was never particularly large, but also not particularly in shape either. I was “skinny-fat” and then I was chubby and then I was “skinny-fat” again. At some point I was probably considered overweight based on the BMI scale and I spent years trying to tone different parts of my body to hide my flaws. I worked at many different gyms and was secretly jealous of the naturally skinny girls that ran on the treadmill for hours and seemed to sweat glitter, looking beautiful the whole time.

You see, I was you. I was intimidated and at times sad, beating myself up that I loved to eat snacks so much. The fact that I couldn’t (or wasn’t ready to) control my physical health to the point I truly desired gave my self-esteem a swift blow. The whole time this feeling came in waves, pounding me until I wasn’t sure I could keep my head above water anymore.

What I really needed to learn was that fitness is about more than looking hot. It’s about motivating yourself and others, teaching yourself how to control your will power, and being dedicated to something that will make you happier and healthier. It’s about making new friends, trying new things, and learning to be happy with yourself throughout the journey. You learn to inspire those around you, build up your confidence, and become the best version of you that you can be. Yet a lot of that gets mixed up in the shuffle of bad body talk.

Even at this point in my fitness journey, I am sometimes guilty of bad body talk. I’ll complain that I am fat even though I’m most definitely not. At times I compare myself to others and wish that I was skinnier, stronger, or more toned (i.e. muscular) than the women around me. This results in me feeling envious and impacts my own progress, much like it probably does to you. This used to be a much bigger issue for me during my very bad body image stage in college. Eventually, though, I learned the importance of choosing to build a body I loved, not just one that other people would love. However, these negative thoughts that are hammered into our mind can be detrimental to women and girls who haven’t gotten a strong handle on how body image impacts self-worth and confidence. At best it causes a few days where you feel particularly bad about yourself. At worst, it can lead to severe eating disorders, depression, or even suicide.

Now, I’m not saying all women need to go out there and lift tons of weights to be happy with themselves. Most of my friends wouldn’t enjoy what I do and that’s fine. What I am saying, though, is that you need to stop letting comparison and self-loathing impact you and your own goals. Don’t fall into the societal ideal that women are weak, should constantly look like models, or that you could never achieve what I’m achieving. Get out of your own head and start changing your life through action instead of limiting yourself through judgments.

You are smart. You are strong. You are beautiful. Now, prove it! Stop being afraid of what might happen and take the time to become who you really want to be. If that means learning to lift weights and become stronger, good for you. If that means you want to compete up on stage looking like a sexy beast, that’s great! Maybe you just want to run your first 5k, eat a little bit better, and improve your heart health. Go for it! I can guarantee that if you just asked someone for a little help and motivation, they’d push you in the right direction.

So, to the women who are intimidated by those “fit chicks” in the gym and on Instagram, you shouldn’t be. I promise you we’re actually quite friendly and would go out of our way to help you reach your goals. More importantly, don’t let societal ideals about body image interfere with the fact that you are amazing and doing the best that you can. Even just being at the gym is a huge step that many people don’t bother to take. I applaud every person who fits exercise into their schedule as it’s important for health, happiness, and stress relief. You should be patting yourself on the back too.

No matter what your goal is, though, don’t let yourself be overcome by the fear of “what ifs.” You’re much stronger than you think. As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.” Now, brush yourself off and reach for your dreams because you can do whatever you truly put your mind to.

Sincerely,

Lindsay, The Fit Chick Who Was Once the Intimidated Chick

Lindsay 1

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No Time to Make Dinner With Your Busy Schedule? Try Using a Crockpot!

In case anyone forgot (despite me saying it a lot recently) I have a pretty hectic lifestyle. Most of it is my choice. I don’t think most “normal” people would choose to work full-time, have a start-up business, tutor, and prepare for a fitness competition (which requires hours in the gym and food prep) all at one time. But hey, why settle for anything less than greatness?

I’m sure many of you have equally as busy schedules with work, school, and family life. You may even be bringing work home which eats up more time than you’d like. Throw in a killer commute and some of you might be even more hectic than me! Which leads me to the question: How does one prepare a healthy meal when you barely have time to step into your kitchen? The answer: the all powerful crockpot!

The wonderful time saving device known as the crockpot!

The wonderful time saving device known as the crockpot!

Now, if you don’t have a crockpot (or know what one is), I’m about to blow your socks off. This fabulous little electric machine (also known as a slow-cooker) allows you to cook delicious meals all at once while you’re at work. You simply place all of your ingredients in it, put it on low (for most recipes), set the timer, and voila! Dinner is ready when you walk in the door at night.

I use the crockpot at least a few times a week, mostly because I need to make very large portions for my fitness related goals. It also saves me hours in the kitchen when I’d normally be slaving over the stove to make a subpar meal (I admit, I’m an awful cook. We can’t be great at everything, right?)

So, here is my all-time favorite recipe (thanks to my sister) plus a link to a website with more great crockpot meals (which I steal from often) to get you started! You can no longer complain that you didn’t have time to cook a delicious meal so you were required to spend all of your hard earned money on an unhealthy dinner at McDonalds! Instead, prepare yourself on your long train ride back from the city to eat a delicious meal cooked in your crockpot.

Mexican Crockpot Chicken

Ingredients: 1 pound of chicken breast, 1 can of corn, 1 can of kidney beans, 1 jar of salsa

Directions: In your crockpot, layer 1/2 the can of corn, then 1/2 the can of kidney beans, then 1/2 the jar of salsa. Place chicken breast on top. Pour the remainder of the corn, beans, and salsa overtop. Set your crockpot on Low for 8 hours. When it’s done, shred the chicken and serve with tortilla chips!

There are additional tasty recipes here!

Now it’s your turn! What are your favorite crockpot recipes?

10 Things I Wish Men Knew About Female Weight Lifters

I had a really rough day at work. Like so rough I could barely mentally process anything by 3pm. All I wanted to do was get home so I could go to the gym and relieve some stress. It has become my home away from home where I can just let the world go and focus on me.

While this blog is mostly focused on career development, I also think confidence, health, nutrition, and physical activity are all extremely important to a well-balanced (and successful) life and career. One of the things that helped empower me (both in my personal and professional life) was lifting weights. I’m not talking about those 5 pound pink dumbbells. I’m talking about legitimate weight lifting like bench pressing, squats, and all those other good things. Not only have I become stronger both mentally and physically, I have built up my confidence to a level that most definitely impacts my daily work. All of this was obtained through something as simple as going to the gym consistently and learning something new.

Throughout my journey towards becoming a fitness fanatic, though, I realized why a lot of women avoid that part of the gym. It’s intimidating. I was anxious when my husband first started bringing me to the free weight section. God forbid I had to work out alone one day. I spent more time making sure I didn’t look foolish those first couple of workouts instead of focusing on the task at hand. That’s why I get it, ladies. There can be a lot of things you don’t know as a new lifter and the men (at least most of them) aren’t exactly dying to help you out. Instead, society has built up this giant myth about why women should stay on the cardio machines and leave the heavy weights to the guys.

Luckily, the tides have been changing slightly as more sexy and strong female weight lifters are making the rounds on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. We’re starting to see the true benefits of weight lifting such as toned physiques, better nutrition and overall health, and improved self-esteem and confidence. However, even after being a regular at my gym for the past eight months (I’m there 6 days a week for 1.5-2 hours. I know, I’m crazy), I still run up against some serious bias from the majority of the guys there. I don’t know whether it’s their own fear of being around strong chicks, a lack of respect for women in general, or something else, but there are some things I want all you men to know when it comes to females in the weight room.

We’re stronger than you think. I think the term that was once used to describe me was “fragile.” I’ve also become accustomed to hearing things like “that’s an impressive amount of weight for a girl.” While I think that’s meant to be a back-handed compliment, stop assuming that just because I’m petite with a baby-face I can’t pick up more than 10 pounds. Not only can I lift serious weight, but emotionally I’m not quite as fragile as you think either. This delicate flower needs you to get over yourselves and realize that strength isn’t just for men.

strength

If you need a spot, that strong chick next to you can do it. My husband is 6’2” and a lean/muscular 190 pounds. You know who spots him? I do. You know how many weird looks we’ve gotten? Tons. How many times have I dropped the weight on him? Zero. In case people forgot (or didn’t know), the purpose of a spot is to assist with part of the weight and to make sure your form is proper when you’re starting to struggle on those final reps. If you can’t lift the majority of the weight yourself, you probably shouldn’t be lifting it at all. That means I don’t need to be able to lift 200+ pounds to spot him.

So, if I’m the only one around don’t be afraid to tap me for a spot. Don’t assume that I’m just going to let the bar drop on your face (although sometimes I think I should).

When a girl asks for a spot, don’t act weird. Speaking of spotting others in the gym, in order to get stronger you need to progressively lift more weight. This means that sometimes I need help lifting that weight, ya know, just like any other person in the gym would need. Unfortunately, I don’t have too many girls to ask for a spot. So, when I politely come over and ask for help for a set or two, don’t be weird. Don’t stare at me like I’m crazy, smirk with your friends, or give me way too much extra assistance because you don’t think I can lift it. Spot me like you would spot one of your bros.

We will not get too bulky. Another favorite back-handed compliment is “you look great, but make sure you don’t get too muscular.” Why don’t you read a few research articles and realize that you sound like an ass? Do you know how hard it is to actually gain muscle unless you’re some type of genetic freak? Women do not even have enough natural testosterone in their bodies to build that bulky bodybuilding look you’re thinking of. Those women are often on steroids to attain such a physique. Plus, I’m building this body for myself, not for you so you don’t have any say in how muscular I get.

This should also say what MEN think happens!!

This should also say what MEN think happens!!

Just because we like to wear form fitting workout clothes doesn’t mean we’re looking for a date. I will be the first to admit that I love wearing short shorts and tiny tanks to the gym. I’ve earned this body and I want to show it off. Plus, wearing baggy clothes is a pain when I’m trying to lift weights because they just get in the way. However, this doesn’t mean that I’m looking for a new boyfriend or side piece. Actually, I’m happily married and my husband lifts at the same gym and is well aware of the type of clothing I wear there. Stop feeding into the rape culture where we assume just because a woman is showing off her body that it’s up for grabs. It’s not! While I appreciate the positive approval I’m getting for my looks (at least to a point), do not step over the edge into clearly unwanted sexual advances. I will gladly smash your face in with a dumbbell if I have to.

strong

We will happily accept work out tips as long as you don’t talk down to us. I love to learn new things. Like seriously, I could read up on different topics all day because I truly think knowledge is power. But, just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I don’t know anything about lifting. I’ve read all the articles you have (probably more actually) and have asked many seasoned lifters tons of questions. Actually, I still ask questions because it’s beneficial for me to learn new movements and add variety to my workouts.

So, while you think you’re being helpful or are simply trying to start a conversation, don’t do it in a condescending tone. If you have a legitimate tip that could help me, I’m all ears. Otherwise, keep it to yourself.

If our headphones are in, that probably means we don’t want to talk. I mean, this applies to everyone, but I feel like women  get sucked in more often than men. For the most part, if my head phones are in and I’m looking straight ahead that means I’m focused on my workout. I don’t want to talk to you. If I wanted to talk, I’d take out one of my earbuds and you’d have a clear signal it was time to chat. If that’s not happening, don’t assume that just because I’m a woman I’m open to spending 10 minutes in a lame conversation about how hot it is outside or what you ate today to get so ripped. You’re ruining my work out. Please go away.

We are not all cardio queens. Actually, I hate cardio. I’d rather lift for 1000 hours than do 15 minutes on the treadmill. Just because I’m a lean woman doesn’t mean you should assume I spend hours schlepping away on the elliptical (and then making comments about how surprised you are at the little amount of cardio I do). I earned this body through lifting heavy just like most men do.

We can re-rack our own weights. I know you’re trying to be helpful, but I got those 45 pound weights on there and I can get them off. Unless I specifically ask for your help or you see that I’m struggling (which happens now and then when a machine is taller than I am), don’t come running over to me like some knight in shining armor. I’m not stupid and I know you’re just trying to use this as a time to chat me up. Learn to be respectful and appreciate the fact that I can do a lot of things on my own.

Just because you’re uncomfortable with females lifting heavy doesn’t mean you should try to ruin our confidence. I have had men actively talk down to me while I was lifting at the gym. I have even gotten into a verbal “argument” once because a guy asked me why I was in the free weight area. While I’ve gained a small group of male friends who totally support my hard work, more men are intimidated and respond in a negative fashion. However, just because you don’t like what I’m doing or the body I’m building isn’t exactly what you think a woman’s body should look like, doesn’t mean you should be putting me down in any way. Instead, you should be building up my confidence by praising the fact that I am strong, independent, and willing to step outside of my comfort zone. It’s these types of women that you want as your significant other because this type of confidence usually transfers over to other parts of your life.

If you don’t like what I’m doing, I don’t care. Strong people lift others up. They don’t put them down.

If you're uncomfortable with me building a healthy body that makes me happy, oh well! I love me for me! And I love being a weight lifting chick!

If you’re uncomfortable with me building a healthy body that makes me happy, oh well! I love me for me! And I love being a weight lifting chick!

In the end, I wish more men understood how their behaviors keep women from engaging in an awesome sport that can really build up their self-esteem and confidence. Get over yourselves and all the myths you’ve been told about women being the weaker sex. And ladies, step out of your comfort zone and pick up a weight that is heavier than your purse! You’ll see the benefits, physically, mentally, and emotionally. If you need any tips, just drop me a line at msstrongsuit@gmail.com and I will gladly start you on the path to a more confident, more sexy you built by lifting weights.

Now, it’s your turn. Do you exercise regularly? How has it helped build your confidence?

Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone: Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

Thanks to all the wonderful snow New Jersey has gotten the past couple of weeks, I’ve been forced to change up my fitness routine a bit. Instead of lifting at my normal gym where everyone knows me, I’ve had to go to a local Retro Fitness that decided they were going to stay open during the storms (they were my lifesavers!). But, I noticed something the second I walked in. All of those hardcore gym rats who, in theory, are exactly like me because they schlepped out in the snow to pick things up and put them down, still looked at me as an oddity. I’m a fairly petite girl wandering into a new gym with a lot of meatheads (and no, I don’t mean that offensively. By definition I’m also a meathead), and I’m not walking over to the cardio machines. Quite the opposite. I almost ran for the weights. Oh, the looks I got were almost laughable.

This did two things to me. One, it made me feel slightly uncomfortable. Two, it made me push myself even harder! I knew I was being watched while I went through my usual work out. This was neither negative nor positive feedback, but I was something new and exotic that doesn’t appear very often in most gyms. The awkwardness I felt wasn’t fleeting, but it’s something I learned to embrace and deal with each time I had to switch gyms until mine reopened. And each time I go I put up more weight and get stronger and healthier. Instead of avoiding the tough situations, I work through them and come out a better person at the end.

Now, to make matters worse more interesting on the work end of things, my position has once again changed its direction. They really seem to be taking lots of liberties with the line “special projects” that’s in my job description. This has presented its own level of uncomfortableness as I’m thrust into situations that require me to teach my supervisor (shouldn’t it be the other way around?) and handle a level of ambiguity that many people would find cringeworthy.

Both of these situations, though, have provided me with some very important insight. In order to be successful and continue to thrive in even the worst situations, you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Nothing will ever be perfect and you will often find yourself in situations where you’d rather turn and run back to your safe spot. However, you must ignore those feelings and embrace the change. You have to show that it doesn’t matter what is thrown your way, you can work through it. You have to step outside your little box that makes you feel save and climb that ladder to success! Once you can do that, you can do anything.

Where the magic happens

Go get some of that magic, people!

So, the next time your boss asks you do to something you’ve never done before, try it (within reason of course). Or if your friends invite you out to have a food you’ve never eaten before, give it a shot. Take little steps to build up your ability to handle uncomfortable situations. This is definitely a time when practice makes perfect and baby steps will help push you along the way. In the end, you’ll find out you’ve just built up your own self-confidence and overall inner strength. That’ll come handy in any situation you’re put in!

Now, it’s your turn! What uncomfortable situations have you been placed in? How did you overcome those feelings?

The Holiday 15: How to Enjoy Office Festivities without Gaining Lots of Weight

It’s that time of year. Thanksgiving has passed and now cakes, cookies, and candy are lurking around every corner in every cubicle. You’ve probably already been invited to at least three different parties (whether it’s in the office or outside) and all you see everywhere is gingerbread cookies and eggnog.

This is the first thought you have when you hear it's the holidays!

This is the first thought you have when you hear it’s the holidays!

This is the hardest time of year for me because I have a serious sweet tooth. I want nothing more than to eat everything I see in front of me. At the same time, I’ve been working really hard towards my fitness goals and I don’t want to ruin them by loading up on 10 pounds of sugar cookies. So, here are 5 tips to help you enjoy the holidays without gaining all that excess weight!

1. Use the three bite rule. Instead of going crazy on all the desserts that are at your office holiday party, pick a few of your favorites and limit yourself to just three bites. This is great because you still get to taste the yummy desserts without all the guilt that comes with eating a piece of pie, six cookies, a cupcake, and drinking a hot chocolate (not like I would do that or anything -_-).

This is what I daydream about doing because I love sweets so much!But, this is the exact opposite of the 3 bite rule!

This is what I daydream about doing because I love sweets so much!But, this is the exact opposite of the 3 bite rule!

2. Offer to make a healthy option. Instead of bringing a dessert like eveyrone else, offer to bring a healthy snack option. Maybe you could make your vegetable platter look like Santa’s village or turn strawberries into cute winter hats. Or, bring a fruit dish that’s shaped like a… fruit dish. Any healthy treat will work no matter what shape or size it is! You could even check out Pinterest for some awesome ideas!
3. Bring in your own food and eat some of it before the party. Instead of starving yourself and then diving headfirst into all the goodies that people brought, bring in your own food. Eat some of it before the party so that you’re not as hungry when you get there. This will help you stop from binge eating like crazy once that sugar hits your lips.
4. Politely decline. I know this one isn’t going to be anyone’s favorite, but sometimes you just need to politely decline the invitation. If you’ve had your fair share of holiday parties and don’t want to eat another snowman shaped snack, there’s no harm in saying no. Your waistline will definitely be happy.
5. Make sure to keep exercising. Whether you decide to go crazy for the holidays or just attend one party with a few snacks, you have to keep exercising. Don’t let yourself get too lazy and fall out of your wonderful gym habits. Keeping up with exercising will help you continue to feel focused towards reaching your goal. So, get your butt back in the gym!

Now, it’s your turn! What’s your favorite holiday treat to bring to parties?

Public Enemy Number One: Sitting

Did you know that sitting for too long actually negatively impacts your health? Studies have linked sitting for long periods of time to obesity, metabolic syndrome, and an increase in risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Scary stuff, huh? What’s even worse is that going to the gym doesn’t seem to counteract this either. Literally the act of sitting for too long is the problem.

So, what do you do if you’re like me and you work in an office where sitting for long periods of time is required? Option 1: Quit your job and find a manual labor job (I don’t suggest this unless you’re really looking for a change of pace). Option 2: Add a few of these options into your day to help you get up out of that swivel chair and into a healthier life!

Probably the world's best desk set-up for health reasons!

Probably the world’s best desk set-up for health reasons!

Take the stairs. Whenever you get the chance, walk yourself up those cumbersome things called the steps. While I don’t expect you to hike up 70 flights (I’m on the seventh floor of my building and I don’t even do that all the time), you should try to take the stairs whenever possible (and if you’re healthy enough to do so). The more you do it, the easier it will be. I promise!

Have a question? Walk over to people’s offices/cubicles. Do you need to talk to your colleague about something? Get out of that chair, walk over to their seat, and have a face-to-face conversation.  Don’t you dare pick up that phone or send an e-mail unless you absolutely, positively can’t leave your desk to get the answer. Not only will this help you move around more, in-person connections will make you happier while at work.

Be fidgety. I’m sure your parents used to tell you to stop fidgeting all the time when you were younger. Well, I’m reversing that and saying fidget all you want (at your desk at least). Keep those feet and hands moving by tapping them or swinging your feet (yeah, I’m too short to reach the floor sometimes so I can swing them with no problem). This will keep the blood circulating through your body. Just don’t be fidgety during meetings if you can help it. That can be considered bothersome.

Stand. Maybe you want to invest in a stand up desk (if you work from home). If you don’t have that option, literally just stand up whenever you can. That action alone can help counteract the negative effects of sitting.

Stretch. While you’re standing, you might as well stretch it out. A few toe touches and arm stretches will help you feel rejuvenated for the rest of the day.

Go for walks during lunch. Do you have a lunch crew like I do? Go for walks on lunch! They don’t need to be fast or sweat inducing. Casual strolls with friends will help you relax and feel healthy while preparing you for the rest of the day.

Now it’s your turn! How do you make sure to keep yourself moving throughout the day?

Self Care 101

The past two weeks at work have been a tad bit tiring and overwhelming. One of my projects literally makes my brain hurt and last Friday I walked into someone’s office to ask a question only to stand there silently because the words just wouldn’t come out. Yup, it’s just one of those weeks.

Luckily, being a social worker helps me combat this stress.  If there’s one thing they beat you over the head with in school it’s how to properly relieve anxiety and tension. Still, many of us can’t seem to get this concept down (which is part of the reason burnout is so high in our field. Or it could be all that secondary trauma or other awful things people deal with, but hey, for the sake of this article we’re going to say it’s because they’re not relaxing enough). This doesn’t just apply to social workers either. Corporate America is just as stressful and everyone needs to take a step back now and then and just relax. It’s the only way you can truly be successful in your career and life without driving yourself completely bonkers.

I promise to give you better options than meditating on your conference room table!

I promise to give you better options than meditating on your conference room table!

So, are you so overtired that you can’t even think about ways to relieve your stress and take care of yourself? Don’t worry, here are a few good ways to take a step back and relax.

Go to the gym or take a walk. The gym is by far my favorite stress reliever. I never leave that place without feeling better than when I walked in. That’s because exercise has been proven to improve your mood and reduce anxiety. So, get out there and lift some weights, run on the treadmill, or just walk the dog.  Anything to get you moving!

Go to happy hour. Two words: happy hour! What better way to unwind after a long, hard day than a trip to your favorite spot for appetizers and drinks with your friends or coworkers? Just try not to gripe for too long about your job. Focus conversation on other things like life events, sports, or hobbies.

Plan a date night. Is your significant other getting the brunt of your cranky, stressed out behavior? Plan a date night for the two of you to relax and enjoy each other’s company. You can go big or small, as long as it’s something you both enjoy and will get your mind away from work.

Scream into a pillow. Have you ever been so frustrated or angry that you just want to scream? Well, go ahead and do it into a pillow! I’m not even kidding here. I’ve done this multiple times and it feels so good to get the anger out. I immediately feel relaxed because all of that pent up frustration has left my body.

Do something you love. You could read a book, draw a picture, or bake some cookies. No matter what it is, do what you love and enjoy yourself. If you work hard, you need to play harder so make sure to take time to appreciate your favorite past times.

Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and count to ten. Sometimes you’re still too busy and stressed out to really do any of these things. When that happens, take a seat, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and slowly count to ten. You’ll inhale the relaxation and exhale all the bad energy that’s stressing you out. Quick, easy, and feels oh so good!

Now it’s your turn! How do you unwind after a tough day at work?