Psst - hey night owls - read this

A few years ago, I shuffled into my local Starbucks at 6:00 a.m., eyes pinned open with toothpicks and yawning as I ordered. At the time, 6 a.m. was the middle of the night for me and Patrick, the regular barista watched me swaying on my feet as he poured the coffee. 

He eyed me cautiously and carefully slide the drink across the counter. 

“Do me a favor. Drink that before you drive anywhere.

There are certain things I shouldn’t do before I’ve had my coffee. Operate heavy machinery, interact with people, or interact with people. 

Here's my hair in 2001. You're welcome.

Here's my hair in 2001. You're welcome.

I am not now, nor have I ever been a morning person.

The world is split into two kinds of people. Larks and owls. I’m an owl. 

For most of my life, I’ve been made to feel bad about my lack of enthusiasm for mornings. I slept sitting up through 5:00 a.m. morning prayer at the convent and my parents preached that the day was wasting if I slept in until 9:00 when I was home for break. 

We are a society geared towards the larks of the world - leaving the owls like myself feeling like we need to change in order to better fit into a typical workday and feel more productive. 

Going to bed early sounds almost noble (and like a fantasy for those of us who struggle to sleep anyway), but if I go to bed and sleep in late that almost sounds lazy. 

The thing is if I have my druthers, (I tried to order some druthers through Alexa because if I have druthers I can have anything I want. But she didn’t understand me).

If I had my druthers, I’d get up around 8:00 or 9:00 and probably stay up until 11:00 or 12:00. That’s the way I’ve always been wired. 

I know I’m more productive at night. In fact, I’m currently writing this post at 11:00 p.m. on Tuesday night (See also an earlier post on procrastination). Sure I could set my alarm to get up and write it in the morning, but I’d feel foggy while trying to write at 5:00 a.m. 

That’s just not my best hour. 

I hear plenty of friends and clients who get frustrated when they try to develop a morning workout routine but find themselves hitting the snooze button and skipping more workouts than they make. Then they judge themselves for being lazy and unmotivated and tired. 

In reality, they’re trying to force a round peg into a square hole. 

Listen, I know there are a lot of tight schedules out there, and some owls can and have to make a morning workout routine stick.  

Plenty of people do what they need to do to get the workout in and that’s fantastic.

But if you’re trying to build that new habit of getting to the gym, I go back to one of my favorite quotes from Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron is “Start where you are.” 

If you are an owl, work with that. A habit is much more likely to stick if you stop trying to change who you are. 

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. 

Change what you do, don’t change who you are.

Mixed Tape Monday: Strong women, planning, and appetites

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a Mixed Tape Monday segment - where I write about a few random things in the spirit of those old school mixed tapes that had disc jockey’s talking over the intro of our favorite Prince song. 

Girls Gone Strong spotlight

Yesterday, shortly after the Steelers broke my heart and made it baseball season in January, I was fortunate enough to have a spotlight published on the website Girls Gone Strong. Perhaps the editor noted my favorite past time as cheering for my hometown football team and took pity on me by publishing it afterward.

There's always a reason for Wonder Woman.

There's always a reason for Wonder Woman.

For those not familiar with GGS, it is a community of women working hard to change the message to women in the health and fitness industry, offering information with a body-positive focus. I am humbled and proud to be included on their site. 

Wearing a Wonder Woman outfit….

Do you have an if, then plan?

We’re half-way into January. How are your resolutions going so far? Have you been mostly able to stick with your resolutions?  According to a study published by Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at the University College in London, on average, it takes people 66 days before a new behavior becomes automatic. 

66 days. 

Only 61 more days to go before my new approach to organization feels more like a habit and less like I’m in shackles. Kidding. Not shackles. More like constrained the way panty hose make you feel constrained. Or thigh highs. Thigh highs are awful. 

Part of making a new habit stick is to have a plan - specifically an if, then plan. 

If your goal for 2018 is to eat healthier, you might have an if, then plan for going out to eat. 

If I go out to eat with friends on a Friday night, then I will order first. (We are often subtly influenced by decisions our friends make, so if you are thinking about a salad but everyone at the table orders a burger and fries, you’ll be less likely to stick with the salad.) Perhaps your plan is that if you go out to dinner on a Friday night, you budget your calories so that most of them come from that meal. 

If it’s eating on the go that gives you trouble, your if, then plan might include storing healthy snacks in your car. Last week I found myself starving while out running errands. It would have been easy to stop at Chipotle, but I had some beef jerky in the car and that helped curb my appetite.

We know that life circumstances are going to pop up at the most unpredictable times. Doing what we can to plan in advance for those times can help us stay on track with our goals.  

How I Made Peace with My Appetite

One of my goals with Mixed Tape Monday is to share content from other sites that I hope will be helpful. The Girls Gone Strong website is an incredible source of body positive, real information. A client shared this article with me, and I've since shared it multiple times. 

Author Robin Skyles writes about her relationship with her own appetite and her personal experience with binge eating.

It's worth the read.  

Happy Monday. 

Only three weeks until pitchers and catchers report. 

It doesn't have to be like this - treating depression

Last week I wrote a post about rules

I’ve created some rules for myself, regarding meditation, health and fitness, and writing. Three weeks in, I’m sticking to those rules at least 80% of the time. 


Don't settle. Unless it's settling your chin on a window sill to watch the ocean waves. 

Don't settle. Unless it's settling your chin on a window sill to watch the ocean waves. 

Last Friday I met with my therapist for only the second time in months, and as I recounted some of my changes, she asked me what was different.

It was a great question. Because the truth is, I’ve often tried to make these kinds of changes in the past, and they haven’t stuck. Then it occurred to me.  

“I think I’m finally on the right dose of medication for depression.” 

Is this as good as it gets?

If you’ve read any of my posts on depression in the past, you know I’ve struggled for most of my life with what used to be called dysthymia, and what is now referred to as chronic low level depression. I have, thankfully, always functioned throughout my depression, and while I realize medication is not for everyone, it was a combination of medication and therapy that finally helped me function at a higher level. 

But I’ve never thrived.

In fact, when I was 29, I had someone tell me that they always thought I’d amount to more. 

It was a devastating comment, but the truth is, I was thinking it too. I still think it sometimes. 

Last spring I was wrapping up my first full year at Spurling, and while I was finally working a job that I loved, I was still struggling. I have taken medication and sought therapy on and off in the past decade. In my mind, I was doing everything that I could to manage myself.

And while I was managing myself just fine, there was a persistent feeling that I wasn’t living my life as fully as I could.   

I wasn’t thriving. 

Last March I sat in my friend’s car in downtown Portland, watching the raindrops slide down the windshield as she spoke. 

“It doesn’t have to be like this,” she said. 

The “this” she was talking about was my overall lethargy and inability to focus. Despite medication and therapy (and it’s very challenging to find the right combination of both) I was in a funk.  

“Trust me,” she said. “I’ve been there.”

“What if this is as good as it gets?” I asked.

“It’s not,” she said. “It’s not.”

As it turns out, she was right. 

I didn't have a doctor I trusted, so I hadn't talked to anyone about medication for years. She recommended a psychiatrist to manage my medication, and I finally went to see him. (And I finally, after months of searching, found a new therapist). For the past nine months, he’s been helping me to find the right combination of medication.

Each time I’ve walked into his office, I’ve asked the same question - what if this is as good as it gets?

But we both persisted in the hopes that it wasn’t. 

So in early December, we made another change to my medication, the third in the past nine months. And if I’m being totally honest with all of you, I believe that last change has as much to do with my ability to create rules for myself as any books on productivity or habits. 

I guess I say that because I don’t want to pretend that any of this is easy. I don’t want to pretend that making big changes to your life is as easy as figuring out what you need to do and doing it. 

Sometimes we paint a picture in the health and fitness industry - that you just have to try harder and get out of your own way.  

The formula is simple, but it’s not easy.

I'm not suggesting that medication is for everyone, or that it fixes everything. We're all different and we each have to figure out what we need to get us where we want to go. 

But I have learned something very important.

Don't settle.


And if you need help persisting don't be afraid to ask.  

Trouble hitting your goals? Set some rules

I've never liked feeling tied in to rules. But as it turns out, rules are giving me freedom...

I've never liked feeling tied in to rules. But as it turns out, rules are giving me freedom...

My personality is so type B that it’s probably a C, so I’ve always balked at the idea of any kind of rules or structure. The mere thought of organization makes the hair on my toes stand up. (You don't have hair on your toes? Oh..uh..yeah me neither).

But in the past two months, I’ve snagged only a handful of workouts between travel, holidays, and life. I’ve felt sleep-deprived, exhausted and completely off-kilter. I published one blog post for the month of December and lost touch with my goals and my purpose. 

So I've turned to two things - rules and a system. (I'll talk about the system later). 


As hard as it is to believe, I've been practicing both for the past few weeks, and they are both happening. The concept of rules came from the book I’m currently listening to “Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives."

I started with a few basic rules - when I need to be in bed , when I need to be out of bed, and the hardest so far, when I need to put my phone away for the night. 

As strange as it sounds, because I’ve already made these decisions ahead of time, I’ve been able to stick to my rules. I used to sit on my couch on a Wednesday night, stoned from fatigue at 9:30 and try to talk myself into getting up, brushing my teeth, and crawling into bed. As silly as it sounds, I could easily put off going to bed for an hour. Many nights I’d crawl into bed by 10:30, only to read my phone for another hour and not shut the light off until midnight. 

But now, I don’t need to decide anything. (See earlier post on decision fatigue). I’ve already made my decision.

I set up my coffee pot before I go to bed, which means when I roll out of bed half-awake , I only need to push the button before meditating. The rule of getting out of bed at a certain time prompted me to set my coffee at night. The rule has led to a habit.   

My last rule might be the most surprising of all. Mostly because it wasn’t a rule before. 

I need to train three times per week. That’s my rule. 

As I told a few clients last week, much to their surprise, I’ve worked out only a handful of times since November. And I work in a gym for crying aught laud (which is how we’d say it in Pittsburgh). 

I need to work out, not just for my health, but for my sanity. I’ve prioritized everything and everyone else in these past few months. So I’ve made it a rule. I will strength train every Monday and Wednesday. That’s my rule. The decision is made. It’s on my schedule. 

Because it’s not just clients trying to get back on track in the new year. Us coaches often need fresh starts too.

You could argue that these behaviors don't need to be rules, and you're probably right. Plenty of us are in the habit of going to bed and getting up a certain time, and working out certain days of the week. But right now, the rules are helping to clarify my goals and develop habits that will help me achieve those goals.  

What are your goals? Rules? Habits? What are you struggling with? Feel free to message me on FB or email me at and let me know. 

A fitness lesson from the convent

As many of you who read this blog and know me personally are aware, I spent my senior year of college living in a convent. 

I shared space with six members of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Northwestern Pennsylvania during my senior year of college. If you click on the link above and glance at their homepage, it's not hard to see what drew me to them. These are strong women devoted to kindness, compassion, and service to others. 

This is the convent where I lived. My room was the cool round one on the third floor. Full disclosure - I am wearing a Boston Red Sox hat, because I've always had a soft spot for the Red Sox. But not the Patriots. Let's be clear..

This is the convent where I lived. My room was the cool round one on the third floor. Full disclosure - I am wearing a Boston Red Sox hat, because I've always had a soft spot for the Red Sox. But not the Patriots. Let's be clear..

Despite moving into the convent with the intention of becoming a novice, I changed gears and asked to live there as a traditional college senior. I took part in morning prayer and chores, but beyond that, I just happened to be renting a room in a convent.  

The story is much longer and more complex than that - there is a prologue and a very extensive first chapter - but for now, it's enough to say that I lived in a beautiful Victorian style house that was owned by the SSJ's.  

Sister Nancy was the most opposing of the six sisters - with her tight curly perm, ferocity for Notre Dame football, and a deep commanding voice that could bring a room to attention in seconds. In fact, she seldom needed to speak to command attention. 

Her mere presence scared the ever-loving shit out of me. 

But underneath the tough exterior, Sister Nancy was as kind and compassionate as anyone else. She worked in a men's shelter and in leadership within the community.

She was a blend of toughness and kindness - and while I mostly feared her for the toughness, I also knew she was compassionate and caring (even if the outer-layer seemed thicker. Much thicker…)

Sister Nancy came to mind a few weeks ago when a client came in and mentioned that her previous few weeks had been filled with too many parties and too little exercise. 

“I know you preach kindness,” she said. “But I really need to get my butt in gear.”

I was a little taken aback by the comment - I never saw the two concepts as separate.  

Kindness and compassion for yourself is NOT apathy. It is NOT throwing in the towel. 

I preach kindness to combat the self-judgment that so many of us are reigning down on ourselves. Most of us already have our own drill sergeant playing in our head - and as a coach, I’m not interested in adding to the punishment. 

But as I’ve said before, kindness is not separate from accountability. Kindness is not apathy. Compassion does not mean listlessness. It doesn’t mean that you don’t work hard or that you say **** it because you fell away from your exercise plan for a few weeks over the holidays.

I understand that we all are motivated differently. Some of us need a kick in the pants to get back in whack (I presume this is the opposite of out of whack). But I still believe you can be firm AND kind. 

Truth be told, I've worked out only a handful of times since mid-November. And I work in a gym for crying out loud.

I feel like a slug, plain and simple. I don't function very well when I'm not working out. But life has crashed on me pretty hard in these past few weeks, and while I'm disappointed that I lost my routine, I can't spend time focusing on what I haven't done. 

I'm focusing on today.  

Kindness and compassion can look a lot like Sister Nancy. A little (lot of) toughness on the exterior - but a lot of patience and kindness on the inside. 

We are at a time in the year right now where it's easy to say screw it. There are two days left in 2017, I'm going to blow it out of the water these next two days and then start in the new year. 

You don't have to do that. It is not all or nothing. You can have two things - you can have pizza and cookies for lunch and still eat within your nutrition plan for dinner. You can blow up your Monday at the office holiday party and still get back to it on Tuesday. 

Make a plan. Move forward. Find someone to help keep you accountable to your goals and that plan. But don’t judge yourself for what you haven't done. And don't confuse kindness with apathy. 

And if you need a Sister Nancy to get you fired up, I could probably give you a little of the tough Sister Nancy.

What is your struggle? Fitness or otherwise? Feel free to comment below.  

Teaser: I am both opening up six spots in my online coaching program AND releasing my first product in two weeks.