Stop minimizing yourself

For one day, I’d like you to remove one word from your vocabulary. 


As an adjective, the definition is “alone of its or their kind, single or solitary.”  It's the only jazz joint in town. 

But I would add another definition. 

To minimize. 

So often I hear clients use the word to minimize themselves and their actions. “I only did 10 reps instead of 12. I only did three sets instead of four.” 

And these are not clients who are being lazy. They are not clients who are dogging it and taking the easy way out. These are usually people that are working as hard as they can - they are working 60 hour weeks, driving three kids to three different extracurricular activities and somedays it's all they can do to even walk through the doors for a workout. 

Ok, to be fair, I do it too sometimes.

I only worked out twice last week instead of three times.

Stop it, ok? For today, stop minimizing what you do.

When we use words like only or  just (click here to read my post on the word just) we minimize the work that we are doing.

We minimize ourselves and our efforts. We are, in effect, saying to ourselves that we are not enough and that what we have done is not good enough.

The word only, much like exclamation points (thanks to my college professor Dr. Minot) is unnecessary. When someone says they only did three sets, I repeat it back to them:

So you did three sets. 

I only journaled my food three days last week.

So you journaled three days, as opposed to the zero the week before. 

Language matters, ok? What we say matters and what we repeat to ourselves matters.

Let me say that again.

Language matters. 

What we say aloud to our friends, our coaches and ourselves matters. What we say in front of our children matters even more.  

I'm not saying that you shouldn't work hard. I'm not saying that you shouldn't push yourself. In fact, set three goals for the week. My stretch goal for meal prep is five days, my ideal is four, and my minimum is three days. Sure, you can push for five, but if you get three days in then you've done a damn good job for yourself. 

And don’t you dare tell me that you only did anything.


Stack those successes on top of each other. Keep pushing forward. 

But stop minimizing yourself. You deserve more. 

Every little bit counts

I was well into my 20’s before I realized that Santa wrapped presents for other kids.


DB curls while drinking coffee from my Captain America mug? Why not? Every little bit counts.

DB curls while drinking coffee from my Captain America mug? Why not? Every little bit counts.

Every Christmas morning I’d wake up with my brothers, and we’d race out to the living room of my parents tiny ranch house to see what Santa had left us. You could generally tell by the piles of gifts which presents Santa had left for whom. Anything baseball related was mine, and anything else I didn’t care about it.

Especially the Barbies that were left for me in an effort to sway my interests. 

I never thought twice about the lack of wrapping until a friend and I were discussing this after I graduated from college.

You mean your parents actually wrapped the presents from Santa? I asked, flabbergasted. Really?

You mean your parents didn’t? She asked, equally incredulous. 

One day a few years ago I asked my mom about not wrapping gifts for us. “It was a way to save money,” she said. “Every little bit counts.”

I’ve said before that my dad lost his job in the steel mills when I was a kid, and there were some years where things were lean. We tease my mom about her frugality now. She buys slightly expired bread “it’s still good,” she says; never buys anything without a coupon, and will drive an extra five miles out of the way to save 3 cents a gallon on gas. Without my mom’s efforts, I’m not sure where we would have been back then, or even now.

My mom doesn’t like us spending our money on her either. In fact, her favorite gift from me is the slightly cracked pot of flowers I picked up in the middle of the road one day 20 years ago.


I think they were funeral flowers that fell out of a delivery truck. And she was like OMG! Best. Gift. Ever. (She doesn’t believe me now when I try to pass off that the new sweater I bought her came from the side of the street. But I try.)

Every little bit counts. 

I think about this now, when I’m looking for ways to save money. I think about it when I make the decision to walk up the flights of stairs at the Portland Jetport instead of taking the escalator. I think of this when I get up in the morning and struggle to write 100 crappy words, which is my commitment to myself every day. I think about this when I opt to skip the Christmas cookies for breakfast when I know I don’t really want them.

Mostly, I try to take inventory of what’s really important - because after all, that’s what my mom was doing. Our birthday gifts were always wrapped, after all (usually with leftover paper from the previous person’s birthday), and I never felt like we were deprived of anything growing up.

So this holiday season, I take my mom’s words and actions to heart, as much as I can. In trying to make positive change in my life, wherever and whenever I can, I try to remember that every little bit counts. 

5 random thoughts on training during the holidays

I’ve written only a handful of posts in December, so here is a smorgasbord of random thoughts for you on this Christmas Eve morning.

1. Doing lunges at a rest stop is weird, but not impossible

The trip from Maine to Pennsylvania begins with busy highways, three lanes of traffic, and the claustrophobic feel of the busy New England life. Gradually, as Massachusetts and Connecticut give way to New York, the exits get further apart, the highways merge to two lanes, and eventually, we’re making the final two hour drive on Interstate 80 to get to State College.

A Bonnie Raitt squat is a bodyweight squat. The rest of these exercises can be found on my  YouTube Channel .

A Bonnie Raitt squat is a bodyweight squat. The rest of these exercises can be found on my YouTube Channel.

And I’m going batshit crazy because I’ve been in the car for too long. Sheila does all of the driving since she gets car sick, so I vacillate between singing Barry Manilow songs and trying not to puke in stop and go traffic.

It’s delightful.

By the time we hit a rest stop, we park far away and I lunge to the bathroom, jog back and forth a few times, and do wide stance t-spine mobilizations in front of vending machines. 

Strangers make a wide arc to go around me. “I don’t know what you’ve got,” they’re thinking. “But I hope I don’t catch it.” 

2. I travel with my grid stick

My friend John always told me to travel with a mag flashlight, as it could be used to break a window should my car get submerged, or take out a stranger at the knees, but in a pinch, a good whack with my grid stick would at least stun someone.

Both of us like to be prepared, ok?

But that’s not why I travel with it. I use my grid stick to get the blood flowing when we get to the hotel or our final destination. I can use it in the car, and it feels good to aggressively work on some of those knots when I just. can’t. Listen. To. NPR. For. one. More . minute. 

3. Something is better than nothing

Yesterday I popped into the gym with my little brother for a quick workout. I was tired, hadn’t slept well in two days, and the last thing I wanted to do was train. But we both went anyway, and I got in a solid 45 minutes of work. I only did six exercises after a brief warm up, but it got my blood flowing and improved my mood. Sometimes I struggle to train if I’m not following a specific program, so it’s good for me to remember that doing something is better than nothing.

It was also great to see my brother isn’t doing any of the program I wrote for him, so it was a good reminder that I’m not necessarily a “coach” but just someone who makes suggestions to family members when they ask and then they largely ignore them.

Cheers :-)

4. Training during the holidays helps to promote kindness

You know that I believe in kindness as a core value for everyone. Well, we’re all less likely to get in screaming matches over politics or the last piece of monkey bread Christmas morning if we’ve done a little workout to get those endorphins flowing. Or to work out aggression. Either or.

And when I say workout, I mean you can go outside and take a walk.

5. You don’t need a gym to train

Sure I practice deadlifting my dog into the car, up the stairs, and onto the couch, but even if you didn’t have to lift your 55 pound hound, you can still get a good bodyweight circuit in. Follow the circuit on the picture to get your heart rate up, your endorphins going, and make people at rest stops stare at you sideways.  


Wishing you the happiest of holiday seasons.

Work in progress


My first college advisor died after my freshman year.

My second advisor left the school.

By my senior year, I assumed the English department was drawing straws to see who got stuck with me next, given that I was prone to weekly existential crises about what to do with my life. Eventually I fell to former department chair Dr. Kelly, a kindly fellow who used long guttural “uhhhhhhs” to fill the silence while he searched for his next thought.

In my final meeting with him before graduating, he looked across his desk at me, touching his fingertips lightly together and his kind eyes smiled through his wire rim glasses.

“You Kim…uh……are a true….uh… in progress….”

I don’t know if I laughed awkwardly aloud, or just avoided eye contact as was often my style back then, but I thought the comment was spot on. If he’d said something like “you’re going to set the world on fire” or pretty much anything else, I would have shrugged it off as the kind of thing you say to any graduating college senior.

But in this case, I appreciated him complimenting me for who I really was. Someone who was working hard to understand herself, someone who was exploring her faith, trying to be a better writer, and mostly trying to find her place in this world.

I've thought of his comment a lot recently, in conversations with clients.

We are all works in progress, aren’t we?

But I think we often lose sight of our progress because we are so focused on the arrival. That because we did not “arrive” at our destination or our goal, we’ve come up short, didn’t work hard enough, or failed ourselves. I didn't enjoy my graduation from college for more than a hot minute before I was consumed with what came next.

Ok, ok. I basically had a panic attack the day after graduation…

At Spurling, we recently hosted an eight-week drop two jeans sizes challenge. Most clients have seen results - some more dramatic than others. But nothing was quite so shocking as sitting down with someone who lost 20 pounds and almost 7% body fat while gaining 5 pounds of muscle and hearing the disappointment in her voice.

But look at how far you’ve come, I said, imploring her to see what I was seeing.

You have made lifestyle changesnot been on some crazy diet that you can’t sustain. You will continue to see positive change.

She nodded, but quite frankly there were no words I was going to say that would have made a difference. Because it is so hard to suddenly un-do in 10 minutes what society has spent 50 years creating.

The constant perception that we're not good enough as we are. That we won't be good enough until....

I’m not going to just suddenly convince her in a 20 minute conversation to focus on how far she’s come. I can talk until my lips turn rubber and she’s not going to believe me. My words alone can’t suddenly change the belief.

My question as a coach - no - as a human being - is what's it going to take? What's it going to take to help each and every client understand that she is good enough as she is? Clients, students, partners, parents, friends - we need to change our language and our belief system to both/and.

You can be working towards progress AND celebrate your achievements.

As with kindness, as with civility, as with compassion, I can only think that it's going to take what it takes - a minute by minute, day by day effort from each and every one of us to help each other not only realize that we are all works in progress, but to love ourselves for the journey we're on, not the destination for which we search.

Be kind.

What are you willing to struggle for?

This thing happened…when I published an article…

This thing happened…when I published an article…

I often listen to books when I'm making the hour drive to the gym, and recently, I heard this quote:

"Who you are is defined by what you are willing to struggle for." **

I re-wound (I still listen to books on "tape" in my mind) and listened to the quote again. Well, I thought, laughing to myself, then one thing is absolutely clear to me. 

I am a writer. 

As much as I enjoy writing, I struggle with it. But putting my words down on metaphorical paper is important to me for a litany of reasons - it was how I found my voice over the years, and how I still find my voice. It’s how I coach and teach. It’s hopefully how I entertain sometimes. I’ve taken classes upon classes to try to perfect the craft, but the process is still a struggle, especially as I push myself to take more risks.

In 2017, I pitched an article to the website Girls Gone Strong, determined to try and publish outside of my little blog, and my pitch was accepted.

Then, I let the project slide through my hands. Even though I was pitching an article on a subject I know well, I kept writing and re-writing and bumping up against self-doubt. And I let the article fall through.

Hence the reason that I can somehow get a blog post out of writing a blog post (or article more correctly).

Until August of this year, when a good friend of mine who also contributes to the site brought it back up to me. And after a few months of struggle and lots of encouragement, the article was published last week. 

I get plenty of encouraging feedback about my writing - and chances are if you're reading this, it's because you have at some point enjoyed some of what I write. Thank you for that. 

And as much as I enjoyed the feeling of finishing the article and finally seeing a writing project through to completion, I think I enjoy the challenge just as much as the finish line. Not always…I mean I get crazy frustrated sometimes.

But for the most part, I’m willing to struggle for my writing. Because it’s important. Because it’s the one thing that has always called to me. Sometimes I feel tortured by it. But I’m also weirdly gratified by it.

We know that happiness doesn’t come after success. We aren’t suddenly happy if we hit our goal weight or land our dream job with our dream salary. If we are, the happiness is short lived. I enjoyed seeing my article published for a short period of time before I took a deep breath and thought well, what’s next?

It’s not that we shouldn’t savor the moments of success. We need to take a sacred pause and acknowledge our achievements. But if we can’t find some satisfaction in the struggle, well, maybe we need to pick something else for which we want to struggle.

This same author also talked about trading problems - I traded the problem of working 70 hours a week at a job I didn’t love for the problem of driving an hour each way to work - but also having more time to sit down and write.

So right now, I am very grateful for this particular struggle.

** The book is the Art of Not Giving a **** by Mark Manson