Mindset

An open letter to women everywhere

Dear women of the world,

I want you to know that I see you.

You sit across from me in the waiting room, or next to me in a restaurant, and tell me you could never do “that.”

"That" varies.

You say you could never slog your way through a 10k, survive a Tough Mudder obstacle course or do a chin up.

I'm telling you today that you can do those things.

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I'm going to believe it for you until you can believe it for yourself.

Ok?

I want you to know that I see you.  

You hurry past mirrors and avoid your reflection in windows. You scoff at every photo you see of yourself. 

“Ugh,” you say. “I look like that?” 

“Don't you dare take my photo,” you say. 

“Do not post that picture to Facebook,” you say.

“I’ll take the photo,” you say. 

If you do let yourself be photographed, all you can see are the flaws. You pick yourself apart. You stare at your belly, at your chin - you compare yourself to others, or to the 22-year old version of yourself.

You can look at your friends, your children, your co-workers with kind eyes and a compassionate smile. You offer encouraging words to family members and strangers. 

But you struggle to offer these words to yourself.

So I want you to know that I see those beautiful things in you.

I know you don’t see them right now. Because you wear your shame like a cloak, you use that self-deprecating sense of humor to change the subject or bow out of a conversation. You work hard, everyday, to see the good in everyone but yourself. 

Because you can’t stand your own reflection.

But here's the real truth.

You. Are. Beautiful.

You. Are. Strong.

You. Are. Capable. 

I know that you struggle to believe those things. I struggle to believe them about myself sometimes too. 

I'm going to hold these beliefs for you until you can believe them for yourself.

Whether or not we’ve ever met, I'm pledging to you today, this one promise: 

I will hold a space for you.

I am going to believe for you what you cannot, right now, believe for yourself. I am going to see in you, right now, what you cannot see in yourself.

I am going to hold a place, free of judgement, where you can shed your shame, where you can embrace your vulnerability, where you can be you. I’m going to do my best to create and hold that safe space for you, until you can hold that space for yourself.

I’m going to believe that you are, right now in this moment, everything you are supposed to be. 

That you are, right now, in this moment, all that you need to be. 

I’m going to believe that for you, until you can see it and believe it for yourself. 

Stumbling into gratitude

I stood at the bottom of the mountain, penned in a box with 150 other participants, thinking of my typical Saturday routine. Sleep in a little, maybe meditate, then sit down with a fresh cup of coffee to write while Rooney sleeps on my feet. 

Today, instead of sipping hot coffee, I was staring disbelievingly at the side of the mountain that I was about run as part of the 2018 Tough Mudder Half. A mountain that in winter, is reserved for skiing.

Down.

Not running up.

 So that’s a hill. And those specs are people…

So that’s a hill. And those specs are people…

All around me people were fidgeting. Some were jumping up and down, others were cracking their necks, while a select few others were screaming.

Like just randomly screaming.

Loudly. 

I stood, cemented in place, unable to shut off the steady stream of sarcasm rolling through my mind.

I looked at my teammate Lauren. 

“I’m not doing this next year,” I said.

“Yes I know. You said that last year, so I’ll remind you that you told me that when we’re standing in line for next year’s race.” 

We both laughed. 

I stopped laughing abruptly. 

“Yeah, that’s totally going to happen again isn’t it?” I asked.

“Yup,” she said. “Totally.”

*****

Next thing I know, we’re schlepping our way up the side of the mountain and I’m dishing out a healthy stream of bad one-liners. 

“Why would I want to be at home drinking coffee and watching College Game Day?” I asked to no one in particular. A guy who was doing his 100th race swept past. 

“Because this is so much more fun!” 

“Yes,” I said. “Yes fun. That’s the word I was searching for right there. Thank you.”

I’m not always proud of my sarcasm, because I know it bumps up pretty hard against negativity. I toe that line of negativity and often cross it, and I crossed it a lot more on Saturday than I wish I had.

Humor is how I cope. And Saturday’s course provided a lot of opportunities to work on coping skills. This was by far the most difficult course I’d ever attempted.

Towards the end of the run, once we had sponges for shoes and mud in places you never thought mud could go, we came around a corner to another mountain. But this one was too steep for walking. We had to scale the mountain on all fours. 

I’d like you to take a moment to recall the famous Chevy Chase tirade about a happy family from the movie Christmas vacation. 

Then add another minute of expletives.

That’s roughly what came out of my mouth at the bottom of that mountain - sans the Santa hat.

There was no way around this obstacle. Literally, the only way out was up. So all of us, many of whom shared my thoughts, threw ourselves into the mountain and just started climbing. 

Half-way up the mountain, I lost my footing. Up to that point I’d been methodically choosing my footholds and hand holds, moving quickly, not giving myself enough time to think.

But suddenly, I had nowhere to put my foot or my hands. I looked down. 

If you do this course next year, let me give you some casual advice when you arrive at this stage of the race. 

FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS SACRED DO NOT LOOK DOWN. 

So then I looked up. And I’d like to take a moment here to add a second piece of advice. 

FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS SACRED DO NOT LOOK UP. 

Not gonna lie - I kind of panicked a little. (I don’t think I peed my pants, but it was hard to tell, since I was drenched.)

But here is what’s cool about these kind of races. I said I was stuck, and the woman behind me put her hand up for me to step on it. So I did. And I was able to get my footing again, and after a few minutes, I could see flags in the distance and hear my teammates cheering me on at the top. 

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(When people cheer for me in sports, they can’t help but call me Kimmie, because they need that extra syllable. And for some reason, in that context, I find the name Kimmie oddly comforting).

Once I hit level ground and could stand up, I leaned up against a tree to catch my breath. I looked out at the view. I looked down at the others still climbing. 

And in that moment, I stumbled straight into gratitude. 

Gratitude that I have a body that allows me to scale a mountain. Gratitude that I didn’t have to go it alone. Gratitude for my health. Gratitude for a growing sense of camaraderie with my teammates, many of whom I had the good fortune of getting to know a little better on Saturday.

At the end of the night, a shower never felt so good. Sweatpants never felt so warm. And my bed never felt so soft. And I was grateful for all of those comforts.

But I’m not doing this next year….

Believe in your worth

Believe in your worth. 

I jotted down these words in my notebook as the speaker continued his presentation. I circled them, drew stars around, and more than anything, tried to do just that; believe. 

In my worth.

Worth.

I looked around the room at the other fitness professionals and wondered how many others questioned their worth. I don't think I was alone in chewing hard on this phrase - but looking at so many of my colleagues, in their twenties and thirties and mostly men - felt like I was in the minority.

I could be wrong, but I think women struggle differently with worth than men do. Not always of course - but often. 

The speaker was talking about finances - about literally believing in the value you provide to others and being willing to ask for money to be paid appropriately for your time, skills and knowledge. But it can be really difficult to believe your skills are worth someone else’s money if you struggle to believe in your own worth as a person. 

Researcher Brene Brown says that the practice of worthiness is about vulnerability. I mean, she does study vulnerability for a living so of course she says that…But she goes on to say that worthiness is about recognizing the voice of “never enough” and finding the courage and strength to persevere anyway.

Good enough

When I first started to hang a shingle as a photographer, I constantly battled the “good enough” mindset. Working in a camera shop, I saw plenty of photographers who were charging money for their work, and, in comparison, I didn’t think mine was that bad. 

But I still didn’t think I was good enough. When the local AA affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates hired me to take pictures, I refused to take their money. I was so surprised that they hired me that I accepted season tickets as my payment.

Season tickets that I didn't need because I had a pass to shoot the games from the dugout...

I mean you can't make that stuff up.

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I battled the same crisis of confidence over a decade later when I made the switch to fitness. I quit my job at Bates to take an unpaid internship in another state so that I could feel like I was good enough to do this fitness thing.

And yet still, at the end of almost every day for the past 40 years, I lean on the bathroom sink and look in the mirror. I scan my face, my crows feet, my laugh lines, that two inch chin hair that good lord, how have I missed plucking that?

And I struggle to believe that I'm good enough.

I write this post today, not because I want anyone to tell me that I am good enough - in fact - please don't. That message needs to come from within me. Just as it needs to come from within all of you.

It's up to me to work on my own worthiness. To meditate, to practice self-compassion, and to let go of comparison with others. But we all need a little help and support in keeping each other accountable for that kind of work too.

Sometimes I write what I call a head-nodding post. Nothing earth-shattering here. Perhaps just something that you read on your smart phone on your lunch break and think yeah - me too. I also feel that way. 

And maybe you think hey - me too - I'll work on the too.

Be strong. 

Be kind. 

Be gentle. 

Random thoughts on training in my 40’s

Working with a bunch of under 30 guys means that I’m perhaps a tad more sensitive to my age than is reasonable. I promise you that once I came on board, coach's meetings became more challenging, especially when we talked about training “middle aged” clients. 

Josh: Generally we won’t have a 40 something year old…

Me: What? What won’t you have a 40 year old do? Hmmm??? What??

Josh: Drag an SUV across the parking lot with her teeth. 

Me: I'll be tying a rope to the SUV in the parking lot if you need me...

The most challenging part of aging for me, and I know I’m young, is balancing my athletic skills and wants with the realities of a 41-year old body that I’ve already put through the ringer playing various sports throughout the years. 

My competitive days might now revolve around golf and slow pitch softball, but I still want to train like an athlete - not just because it’s fun, but because it’s who I am. So with that in mind, here are those random thoughts.

1. Don't tell me I can't do something

 I want to be like Donna, and Eileen and Kathy and so many of my other clients who are working out and training hard, and smart, into their 60's and beyond.

I want to be like Donna, and Eileen and Kathy and so many of my other clients who are working out and training hard, and smart, into their 60's and beyond.

Listen, I know there are things I shouldn't do anymore, in the interest of my long-term health. I might have to let go of that goal of running a marathon, given that I spent the past four months side-lined from my most recent attempt. 

But, if you know what's good for you, and me, you'll never tell me I can't do something. Maybe that's hard-wired from my years of being one three girls in Little League, but I'll break myself doing something if you tell me that I can't. 

We all have particular gym identities, and mine is that of an aging athlete. For me, that means that I want to throw medicine balls, deadlift until my face falls off, and move like an athlete. Let me do that, ok? 

2. Recovery isn't a suggestion, it's a necessity

I didn’t think anything about running or working out every day when I was in college and my early twenties. This week, as I’m finally picking up a training routine after being hampered by injury, I’m on my fourth day in a row of training, and my legs know it. So tomorrow’s workout will be foam rolling and light stretching, because I’m not a spring chicken any more. (More like early summer).

Recovery doesn't necessarily mean sitting around on the couch. Foam rolling, a massage, light stretching and walking can be part of a recovery day. 

3. If I don’t warm up, I pay the price

Pretty much what I just said. If I don’t warm up properly, which is following a complete foam rolling routine and a full body warm up, I’ll tweak something sooner or later. Our muscles aren’t filet mignon, they’re beef jerky. (It's a gross but effective analogy. Just think about ripping apart that jerky. You're welcome for the visual.)

You don't want to tear muscles because you skipped your warm up, right? Me neither. Let's get out there and show those Milennials how it's done.

Right after we warm up for 20 minutes and slather ourselves in Biofreeze...

4. I still think of myself as an athlete

I’m not going to the Olympics (maybe the senior ones someday) or making money as an athlete, but I still think of myself as an athlete. That means I want to train like an athlete. I want to move in other planes of motion. Think about the cone drills, back pedaling, drop step moves and shuffles we do when we play a sport. I might not jump onto a 32 inch box or explode on a sprint (I use the term sprinting very loosely) like I did when I was younger, but it's still important to train power and explosiveness. And I still want to move like an athlete. 

Playing sports isn’t just something that I used to do; it’s how I first learned to relate to the world. I was on my first team when I was five, and was on teams almost every year of my life right up until 2015. 

5. Be smart when it comes to injury

Remember that commercial about being like Mike? Yeah, be like Mike, but don't be like Kim. I’m the best example of what NOT to do when it comes to working out around an injury, for all of the above reasons. I find it hard to balance my competitive mentality with the restrictions of an injury, but the reality is, the sooner you take care of an injury, the sooner you get back to doing what you love.

This is an "area of opportunity" for me. But I think my last injury did more to teach me patience than anything I've previously dealt with.  

6. You might have to train differently than you used to

We have a client who has had a double knee replacement and double hip replacement, and she has a crazy hard core athlete mentality. But she’s also accepted the limitations of her body and embraced what she can do. It’s not that she can’t train - it’s just that she has to train differently. And she’s made peace with that.

All of us would do well to follow her lead. 

I often joke with clients that there should be a support group for aging athletes, and I mean that. I’m not sure that there’s anything more defeating than when you ask your body to do something (run a marathon, weed the garden, play a pick up game with your kids) and you find that you can’t do it.

Feeling betrayed by your body is an awful feeling. 

But it does no good to sit around and overthink about it. And it does no good to pretend that your body can do exactly what it did when you were 20. If we can learn to adjust expectations (not lower them necessarily), then perhaps we can embrace the privilege that is growing older.  

Often, I find it’s helpful to both have a coach, who can program for you, and a solid community of people who can keep you sane when you’re on the sidelines. 

And if anyone out there is looking for a coach, I'll be opening up a few spots in my private coaching group in September. 

Be strong. Be kind. 

 

Good things happen when you show up

The story goes like this:

A former gang member trying to leave the gang life was assigned, among other activities, to a meditation group. Two weeks into the class, the instructor called his supervisor and complained.

“He doesn’t want to be here,” the teacher said.

“Where is he right now?” asked the supervisor.

“Here.”

Um…..

 Show up, laugh, learn what a bird dog is....laugh some more...photo by  www.leisejones.com

Show up, laugh, learn what a bird dog is....laugh some more...photo by www.leisejones.com

The student was in the class four months before he put his phone down and began to actively participate. I was struck, as I listed to the story, at how often that kind of situation occurs at the gym or with fitness related activities.

People come to the gym for a variety of reasons, and in a lot of different situations. Some folks show up because a doctor said so, some show up because if they don't change something in their lives, they'll have to go on medication, and still others come because a friend dragged them through the doors, metaphorically kicking and screaming (literally though, sometimes bitching and moaning). 

But I'll tell you right now, that showing up is the hardest part of adopting a new routine. 

In the past few months, I've fallen out of my meditation routine, so I spent the past week trying to reclaim that space. The best I could do was to sit on my meditation pillow for five minutes, which I did three times this week. 

I didn't meditate. 

I sat there, shifting around, thinking of everything I had to do that day, and then I got up when the timer went off. 

Sometimes, showing up is all we can do. Meditating feels hard for me right now. For others, being at the gym is hard - they don't want to be there. They don't love working out. Many don't even get the reward of feeling better at the end of the workout. They're just relieved to check it off the list.  

Some people fall in love with working out right away, but many folks don’t. I can think of one client who came to the gym for a full year and “tolerated” every minute of it. She openly hated working out, and it was always amazing to me that she somehow made herself get to the gym. 

I asked her once what her motivation for coming to workout was when she disliked it so much.

"I realized one day that I was the fat friend in a group photo," she said. "I don't know when it happened, but I suddenly saw a photo on Facebook and realized that was me." 

Somehow, despite her dislike of the workouts, she kept showing up. She didn't want to be at the gym, but she got there at least twice a week. 

Then something interesting happened. She missed a week when she got sick - and when she came back she realized how much better working out made her feel. Mind you, she'd lost 40 pounds through the process of showing up and putting in the work. But it took a year for her to want to come to the gym.

Even now, she doesn't love it. But when you're building a new habit, it's helpful to have a reward at the end of the behavior, and for many of us, the reward is that we feel better after the workout. She feels that now, but she didn't for the longest time. 

Maybe you’re showing up to the gym because a friend dragged you. Maybe you show up, do half of a warm up, and shuffle through the workout. You know you "should" do more, but you don't have it in you.  

I believe that if you keep showing up - if you keep putting in the effort - that one day you will realize that you don’t have to measure up to some abstract unattainable idea of who you should be. 

Let me repeat that last phrase one more time:

One day, you'll realize that you don't have to measure up to some abstract unattainable idea of who you should be. 

You just need to be you. 

Keep showing up. 

And good things will happen.