motivation

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.

kimlloydfitness.jpg

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. 

kimlloydfitness.jpg

(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….

The things we carry

Note: Yes this title is a take on one of the best short stories of all time, Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried." 

The day after I broke the school record for wins by a softball pitcher, I asked my teammate and good friend Aimee, who did the school tv news in the morning, if she would please not make a big deal about my achievement the next morning on the announcements.

I was proud, don’t get me wrong, but I absolutely melted in the face of attention.

She promised. 

The next morning, when her piece of the news was complete, I was relieved that she had mentioned the highlights of the game without making a big deal about the record. 

Then the camera panned to Andrew, a theatre major who was made for tv. Aimee hadn’t mentioned the record, but she gave Andrew full license to go on and on and on and on about it. He had a giant sign, maybe some streamers, and was shouting at the top of his lungs, Howard Cosell style. 

I was mortified.

Actual photo from my 1995 yearbook, with apologies to all of my classmates who maybe didn't want their 1990's hairstyles on the interwebz. 

Actual photo from my 1995 yearbook, with apologies to all of my classmates who maybe didn't want their 1990's hairstyles on the interwebz. 

(Aimee is now a sports psychologist and director of player and team development for the New Jersey Devils, so presumably, she was doing her early work in exposure therapy). 

As my classmates trained their attention on me, I opened up my book bag and stuck my head inside.

Yes, I really did this. 

My reaction to attention, positive or negative, is visceral - my face turns crimson, I tug at my red hot ears; I can't make eye contact.

People get awkward just watching my awkwardness. 

But hey, the good news with being 41 years old is that I'm past that stuff, right?

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah!

No.

Two months ago, my coworker Judy brought in her microphone headset for me to try out during a team training class. My voice doesn’t carry well and as our classes have gotten bigger, even my best outside voice loses the battle to the blaring music and hum of conversations. 

I knew I needed to at least try a microphone, but took one look at the headset in Judy's hands and was a teenager all over again, frantically looking for a book bag in which I could stick my head. 

Judy turned the headset on and talked into the microphone.

“See?” she said, talking into it. “No big deal.”

Right, I thought. Right. Totally. I’m an adult. No big deal. Nope, this is fine, totally fine. I’m basically on stage everyday when I coach. Yup, totally got this.

She put the headset on me and I walked over to the class of 20 people waiting for me.

It's like I'd been dropped into a Wonder Years' episode. 

I looked around for a moment before shaking my head and ripping off the microphone. 

“Sorry,” I said to everyone as I tried to pull my ear off of my head. “You’ll just have to listen closer.”

I’m 41-years old and comfortable in my skin.

But in that moment, I was 17. And the experience was completely unnerving. 

In retrospect, I'm grateful I was so completely triggered. 

Because I work in a field that is ripe for that kind of reaction. 

Middle school and high school are tough years for many of us. We're figuring ourselves out, finding what we like, who our friends are, what we're good at. And many of the people, women and men alike, who walk through our doors have had some sort of traumatic experience in a gym or fitness setting. 

I actually don't know how to swim. In high school when it was time to swim for gym class I would stay in the shallow end of the pool and tell Mrs. Pompa that a person could drown in as little as two inches of water and that it was abuse to make me wear a bathing suit.

But really I was humiliated that all of my friends were swimming laps and I was hanging out in the shallow end. 

We are hard wired to remember those feelings.

We don't forget what it felt like to be picked last for kickball, to sit on the bench during soccer or finish last in a relay race. We don't forget what it felt like to wear those horrific polyester gym uniform shorts that were only three inches long while Mrs. Pompa made us square dance (promenade!). 

Sometimes it's easy to forget what people carry when they come through our doors. Not just what they carry now, but what they carry from 30 years ago. The white hot scars that never go away. 

It's easy to look around, as coaches and fellow clients, and make assumptions about the people we see. We all carry our experiences, both old and new, and those experiences inform who we are and what we've become. 

I guess that's why my go-to saying and sign off is to be strong and be kind. 

Be kind. Be gentle. You never know what someone else carries.

I promise to do the same. 

Did you know I have a newsletter? It's true. I do. I send out weekly emails with tips and tricks in fitness and nutrition. Did you also know that I'm releasing my first fitness product in April? And that I'll be giving away a free copy to someone on my newsletter list? No, you didn't know that? Well, now you do. Sign up here.  No, I won't share you email. That's just not cool. 

Nevertheless she persisted

I love that quote. 

It stems from the story of Senator Elizabeth Warren, who stood up to read a letter written by Coretta Scott King as she opposed the nomination of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. As the story is written, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell tried to cut her speech short. 

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Cheryl has had her share of injuries. But rarely misses a day in the gym. 

Cheryl has had her share of injuries. But rarely misses a day in the gym. 

Politics aside, the moment became a rallying cry for women everywhere. There were memes and t-shirts and jewelry with the phrase. 

This is the quote that came to mind when someone asked me what to do when you hit a plateau in your training.

My best answer? 

You persist. 

I know. I write that like it's easy. It's not. 

I might re-write the phrase from above to “She was tired. She was frustrated. She couldn’t see the horizon, only the dusty, rocky ground beneath her feet. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

The fitness journey has peaks and valleys. Signs of progress at the beginning are often motivating. We start to feel better, move better, drop pant sizes and we actually feel like working out. We’ve got momentum and we don’t want to lose it. 

We feel the progress.

But what happens when we stop feeling that progress? 

We go two months without seeing or feeling any changes. 

Ah, now we lose patience. I might mention that along with persistence comes patience. I don't think you can have one without the other. 

We get frustrated. We doubt the process. We question our approach. We must be doing something wrong if change isn't happening. 

So what do we do?

We persist. 

Because the only way out is through. 

Even as I write this post this morning, I am drawing on my own patience and persistence. I get antsy when I write. As much as I enjoy writing, I don’t always enjoy the process. If I’m not thoughtful, I will write a sentence, think of something I need to do, and jump up to do it. I’ll send that email, check Facebook, remember to post to Instagram. 

If you want me to clean the house, ask me to write a blog post. Or give a presentation.  

What I’ve learned to do is set a timer and commit to the either/or strategy. I will either write, or do nothing, for 20 minutes. I’m allowed to not write. I’m allowed to look around the room. But I’m not allowed to do anything else. I can’t pick the dog up for a cuddle, I can’t open any other windows on my laptop. 

I can’t look at my phone. 

I can get another cup of coffee, because coffee. But nothing else.

Webster's dictionary defines persistence as such:

“Firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.”

Obstinate continuance. I love that. I imagine that was what drove Thomas Edison to continue despite failing the first 9,999 times with the light bulb. 

He was determined to keep moving on.

Persistence is the running back whose legs keep churning upon running into a pile of lineman. 

You keep moving. 

I want to have profound advice. I want to stand up on a chair in front of all of you and deliver my best Knute Rockne impression. (Google him if you don't know him. Doug...)

But the best I can tell you is to keep moving. You're only reward might be the knowledge that you put forth a dogged effort, despite everything in your life pulling on you to call it quits. 

Satisfaction is in doing what you thought you couldn't. What you thought you wouldn't. 

If you can't see the light at the end of the tunnel, find someone with a flashlight. Reach out and take a hand. 

Grab your tribe. Lean heavy on them. 

Keep your feet moving. 

Drive the pile.

It will feel hard. It will feel futile. It will feel like there is no point. 

Persist. 

And if you need help persisting, please don't hesitate to reach out and ask. 

Did you know I have a newsletter? It's true. I do. I send out weekly emails with tips and tricks in fitness and nutrition. Did you also know that I'm releasing my first fitness product in April? And that I'll be giving away a free copy to someone on my newsletter list? No, you didn't know that? Well, now you do. Sign up here.  No, I won't share you email. That's just not cool. 

Injuries suck

Originally this post was titled strategies for dealing with injuries. 

But I'm highly caffeinated and pissed off today. 

Today's workout includes screaming with frustration, icing my foot, journaling, and a ton of upper body. No feet required for chin ups.

Today's workout includes screaming with frustration, icing my foot, journaling, and a ton of upper body. No feet required for chin ups.

On Sunday, I strapped my running shoes on and turned in my first long run on the way to training for the San Diego marathon. The marathon is my great white whale.*

Completing a marathon is on my bucket list and so in February I took the plunge and signed up to take a 26.2 mile foot tour of San Diego. I don’t run the way I did in my twenties and early thirties, when I logged 30, 40 and 50 miles per week and couldn’t be dragged into strength training.

In fact, I remember going into the weight room at Penn State Altoona with a friend of mine and struggling through two ugly reps of the bench press with a 45 pound bar. 

It practically pinned me.

I felt weak, inadequate, and completely out of my league. It would be another eight years before I went into a weight room and didn’t head straight for the treadmill.

Now that I include plenty of strength training in my workouts, I feel like I am better prepared to have a balanced approach to my marathon training.

(Meanwhile, back at Justice League headquarters...)

This past Sunday, I headed out on the country roads near my house and as I jogged past the farms and along the river I was reminded of why I fell in love with running in the first place. It’s meditative. It’s peaceful. It’s cathartic. 

I got home after 7 miles and felt great. My only goal with the marathon and training is to stay healthy. 

Less than 24 hours later, my right foot started to hurt. By Monday night I could barely put weight on it. By Tuesday I was limping around the gym floor spitting nails and cursing my body. 

I could have put my fist through a wall. 

I don’t know if the phrase is unique to Western Pennsylvania, but “I ain’t no spring chicken no more.” I get that. I’m not old. But I’m not young. And my body is coming to collect on every check I wrote in my teens, twenties and thirties. 

And every time I get a nagging injury my self-esteem takes a hit, I become petrified of re-injuring whatever body part has given up on me this time, and I get depressed. Exercise is my main form of managing my depression and when I can’t workout, it’s not good for me.

Not to mention we're running a challenge at the gym right now and I have a team full of clients I'm leading and I want to lead by example. My example is just going to have to be different for a few days. 

The great thing about aging though, is the wisdom that comes with it. As frustrated as I am right now, I have some go to strategies for getting me through. 

1. Writing

I write blogs now, but for years I journaled. Writing helps me process life events, make sense of how I feel and what I’m thinking and gives me a chance to really get my emotions out. Today’s journal entry looks something like this:

^%$%$*&^&$&*&*(%^%$%$#$^&^^$#^(*

Arrrrgggghhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

2. Workout around the injury

I don’t know how long I’ll be limping around on one foot, but I’m obviously not going to put in four miles today. I am, however, going to set a timer for 15 minutes and deadlift my face off. Almost without fail, there is something you can do to work out around an injury. And in the past few months, I’ve seen clients come in with a broken leg, sprained knee, and eight weeks out of a double hip replacement to get in a workout. 

I’ve also seen clients come in and workout while going through chemotherapy. 

There is always something you can do. 

3. Stay connected

We encourage all of our clients to continue coming to the gym despite injuries. Even if they only get on a foam roller or do some light stretching, the community connection can go a long way in keeping your spirits up. When I was a college coach, injured athletes were never excused from practice. Social connection is critical, especially at times when we really don’t feel like it. 

I know the word tribe gets thrown around a lot these days, but I can promise you, I’m leaning heavy on my tribe right now as I negotiate this injury.

I often tell new clients that we have very few truly healthy people with whom we work. Almost without fail, we have some nagging injury that crops up from time to time. That includes us coaches. And not just the ones over 30. We all deal with injury at some form or another. 

Lean on your tribe. Ask a coach what you can do. Let yourself be emotional. But don't give up on yourself. 

*Please tell me you all know the reference to the great white whale...