The only way out is through

That’s a line from an Alanis Morissette song.

Some of you reading this might suddenly have a flashback to that time you were on a date with a frat guy named Alan who had a six-disc changer in his car when it was cool and he played the song Ironic for you while you were busy getting homesick at the site of a stop sign because you’d only been away at college for two weeks, and you were thinking that his car smelled like sweaty gym socks and he was wearing too much Drakkar Noir.

I mean, generally speaking that might have come up for you.

Well, I’m just letting it all out here. This is what I dressed like when I was listening to Alanis Morrissete my freshman year of college.

Well, I’m just letting it all out here. This is what I dressed like when I was listening to Alanis Morrissete my freshman year of college.

This song lyric is actually not from Jagged Little Pill, which I know half of you out there reading remember as her debut album of the early nineties - but I’ve always liked the phrase - the only way out is through. It seems a milder version of Nike’s Just Do It.

I was reminded of this lyric recently while reading a nutrition article. Like many people, I’m an avid consumer of information, whether that’s through reading or listening to podcasts and books. I just really enjoy learning. One of the challenges of the constant influx of information though, is paralysis. So the other day, when I read this line:

Action is more important than information - I had a mind blown moment.

The article went on to say that no matter how much you know, or how much you want to change, in the end, it’s only action that creates change.

I mean I know that action is more important, I just forget it all of the time.

I think we all do.

I’m trying to apply the action concept to my writing as I work on my second book (the first one is due out in September). On any given day I spend more time thinking about my book, talking about the concepts or reading about writing than I actually spend writing. Which somehow leaves me feeling exhausted without anything to show for said exhaustion.

Sound familiar?

I actually had this conversation with my therapist last week, and so she gave me an assignment, which I’m practicing right now. Write for 15 minutes a day.

I lobbied her to drop the number down, you know, to set me up for success in case I missed a day, but she’s a hard ass and didn’t budge.

Everyday, she said.

And what if I don’t hit that? I asked.

Then we’ll talk about it next time.

So far, I’ve hit my 15 minutes a day.

Because I’m spending 15 minutes a day working on the action of writing. I’m not reading about it, thinking about it or talking about it.

Let me emphasize that last point a bit:

I’m not thinking about it.

Sometimes we think ourselves into exhaustion about any given change on any given day. We’re so toasted from mentally ruminating on something that it wears us out.

But these past few days, I’ve just be shutting up and doing it.

And it’s been ugly.

Stream of consciousness, ranting, no punctuation, lots of ellipses - ugly. But it’s happening. The only way to write is to put your butt in the seat and write.

The only way to change is to take action towards that change.

The only way out is through.

You can’t get through if you’re not moving. You can’t see change if you’re not doing. I know you know this. But since when does knowing mean doing? How many times have you ever said to yourself, or your coach or therapist, I know what I need to be doing, I’m just not doing it?

If everyone did the thing though, I probably wouldn’t have a job because coaching isn’t about telling people what to do - it’s helping them figure out how to do things.

So this is what I want you to do. I want you to, right now, at this very moment, put your phone down and pull out a piece of paper and write down anything you’d like to change in your life.

You’d like to be more physically active, you’d like to clean off your desk, dust your bookshelf, go through one drawer of clothes and go all Marie Kondo on it (does that 15 year old stretched out sports bra give you joy?) - finally make that dentist appointment you’ve been putting off - whatever the task may be, pick one thing and take action on it for five minutes a day.

You can do anything for five minutes.



Good talk.

P.S. Are you ready to take action with your nutrition, but not sure where to start? Comment below or send me an email at to find out more about my online nutrition coaching program that starts in July.

**Not open to Spurling Fitness members - we’ve got your nutrition coaching covered :-)

Shifting your momentum in life

Me embracing my free Jim Palmer jersey on my visit to Camden Yards three years ago. I love baseball so much that I’m making my way around all of the MLB ballparks, one year at a time.

Me embracing my free Jim Palmer jersey on my visit to Camden Yards three years ago. I love baseball so much that I’m making my way around all of the MLB ballparks, one year at a time.

I’ve been a baseball fan for as long as I can remember.

I had posters of Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, and Babe Ruth hanging on the lavender walls of my bedroom when I was eight years old.

I listened to my hometown Pittsburgh Pirates on the yellow Mickey Mouse radio that sounded more of static than the play-by-play announcers, and I saved my box tops to order that Wheaties’ collector’s edition Pete Rose poster when he broke the all-time hits record. 

(That was before he broke my heart by getting thrown out of baseball…)

In 2013, just two weeks after my wedding, I made a quick 24 hour round trip to Pittsburgh to watch my team play in, and win, the Wild Card game, making the playoffs for the first time since I was 15.

To this day, it’s the coolest baseball experience I’ve ever had.

I struggle to explain to a non-baseball fan what it is that I love so much about the game. I love the pace - I love the strategy - I love the quiet rhythm of the crowd and the announcers on a summer’s evening drive home from the gym. I don’t know where I learned to love the game so much - but baseball is as much a part of my blood as my Irish and Welsh heritage. 

Tonight, as I watch my guys battle the Milwaukee Brewers to get back to a .500 record, I’m struck by the one thing that keeps me tuning in for every pitch of every game, even when my team is, as they often are, losing.

I tune in for the possibility.

The possibility that my team, however long they’ve gone without a World Series win or appearance (40 years), might string together some amazing moments.

Like the time the Pirates scored six runs in the bottom of the ninth, with two outs, to defeat the Houston Astros in a game that didn’t mean anything to anyone.

Except some of us fans.

So yeah, I tune in for the possibility.

What I love about baseball, and just about any sport really, is the fact that the momentum of the game can turn on a dime. That one great defensive play can spark an offensive outburst the next inning - that one player can foul off nine pitches, find a way to get on base, and change the energy of his (or her if you’re watching softball right now) team.

The funny thing about baseball, is that those momentum and energy shifts are almost always the small things. The worst thing that could happen right now when my team is down by three? A home run.  

Sounds strange right? I mean how can a home run be a bad thing? Because there is a different energy and feel to the game when the bases are empty. And if you’re down by three in the ninth, it’s hard to build a rally on a home run. But a bunt single? A hustle double? A batter working her way back from an 0-2 count to draw a walk? 

Those are the moments that change the energy and momentum and ultimately, the outcome of a game. 

I’m writing this tonight as a reminder, not just to you, but to myself as well, that it doesn’t always have to be the big thing that gets you going in the right direction. You can stack one small habit on top of another small habit and before you know it, you are making changes to your life that feel good for you.

But the one thing you do need?

Optimism. You need to be optimistic that you can change - that your life can be different - that, no matter what life has dealt you recently - that you can put together that one great at bat that will help steer you in the right direction.

And if that’s not something you can believe in for yourself right now, well, I’ll tell you what I tell everyone else - I will be optimistic for you until you can be optimistic for yourself.

In the meantime, the Pirates are losing 2-0. But I’ll watch the game to it’s end tonight, and I’ll tune in again to watch them tomorrow. Because tomorrow’s a new day, filled with new possibilities - and you never know when the momentum is going to shift.

But I believe it will. And I’ll be watching and supporting them when it does.

You are bathing suit ready

It’s getting to be bathing suit season, and so there is a lot of talk about getting bathing suit ready. Presumably, in our culture, “bathing suit ready” means endless squats, lunges, push ups, ab work, spin classes, bootcamp classes, running and generally beating the sh*t out of our bodies.

Hey, exercise is great for improving your overall physical (and mental) healthy - and there is nothing wrong with any of the activities listed above. With the exception of spinning (I’ve never taken a class if you can believe it), I enjoy them all.

But I don’t think more exercise is what you need to do to get “swimsuit ready.” (The phrase swimsuit ready came from a reader when I was surveying for potential blog topics.)

Regardless of what swimsuit you wear, resist the urge to bring back acid washed joggers. Please. For me.

Regardless of what swimsuit you wear, resist the urge to bring back acid washed joggers. Please. For me.

I believe the number one action you can work on to get prepared for a season that invites shorts and tank tops is….drum roll please……

Develop a positive relationship with your body. 

Yup. No big thing, right?*****

Most of us would find wrestling an alligator more natural than being kind towards our bodies.

If we met in person, you might describe me as fit - and with a lot of help from genetics and some weekly effort on my part - I hold my own. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still struggle with my own body.

On the outside of my right knee is a pale white scar from a teenage, neighborhood game of hide and seek. On the inside of my right leg is a small spiderweb of varicose veins that seems to puff up closer to the surface with each passing year. Sometimes you can’t really see them, and other times that’s all I see when I glance down at my legs. I have them on both legs, in several different places, and at times I am reminded of my grandmother, who rarely wore shorts, but I caught glimpses of her varicose veins when she wore dresses to church. 

These veins bother me in a way that I’d like to deny. But if I’m going to preach a positive relationship with our bodies, then you should know that I struggle in my efforts too. Those varicose veins makes me feel my age in a way that’s uncomfortable.

And so I’ve been joking that I won’t wear shorts at all this summer - because I’ve become embarrassed of my legs.

I’m not proud of that, but hey interwebz - I’m telling you anyway. So I’m working on that positive body image.

The thing is, my legs have taken me many places. They’ve hiked over 200 miles of Rocky Mountain National Park. They’ve run thousands of miles in all parts of the country, from New Mexico to Colorado to Oklahoma and more. They’ve worked 12 hour days on cement floors doing retail, walked through the farm fields of Western Pennsylvania to interview farmers, and stood in the dugout wells of minor league baseball teams, shifting from side to side to stay warm. They barked and complained when I did last year’s Tough Mudder, and they still don’t take very kindly to deep squats or lunges. 

But my legs, like the rest of my body, carry my story. 

And this summer, maybe more than any summer in the past, I find myself having to work very hard to be kind to my body. To be appreciative of my body. To be gentle with my body. To trust and appreciate that I am the best version of me that I know how to be right now, and that is all I can ask of myself.  

For the record, no I don’t think varicose veins are the end of the world, and yes, I know you can have them removed when they start causing pain. For right now, I’m just being vain about my veins. 

Yes, I did that. 

It’s not easy to avoid self-deprecating comments about your appearance and your body. We punch holes in all kinds of compliments that people pay us. 

You look great!

You’re lying!

I love your glasses!

They hide my fat face!

Those responses are reflexive - much like our apologies - and those are the comments that we need to corral.

As we get ready to head into summer on this Memorial Day weekend, and even those of us in Maine will experience warm weather, I want you to take this reminder and put it on your refrigerator and your bathroom mirror and your phone and maybe even a post-it note on your co-worker’s forehead:

You are bathing suit ready, just as you are.

***** Soooooo much sarcasm there. So much.

Apology not accepted

Yesterday, my afternoon started with two back to back one-on-one meetings with clients. 

Who both greeted me with an apology. 

Not hi or hello. They came through the door tripping over themselves to apologize.


One was running a few minutes late, so I get the apology there, I appreciate it, and I would do the same. But I can’t even remember why the other client was apologizing. Because it wasn’t necessary in that moment.

I’m not new to the apology game. I was no more than 10 years old, hanging out with my best friend Teri when she told me to stop apologizing. I can’t imagine what I was sorry for at that prepubescent age, but in any case, her casual chiding of me prompted an endless loop of graveling on my part.

Stop saying you’re sorry.

Yes, right, sorry.

I said stop saying sorry.

Ugh, yes! Sorry!


Arghh! Sorry!!

And on it went.

Apologies are almost reflexive for many of us, and that’s the kind of apology I’m talking about. Last week, a client shared a piece of writing from a coaching session she’d had with me over a year ago. She’d hopped into my session at the last minute, meaning I hadn’t prepared for her. But she literally walked in the door apologizing.

And I told her not to apologize - I was glad she was there. I try to remind clients that I’m glad they showed up - but I hadn’t truly appreciated how important that might be. She went on to say in her note:

“For thirty-six hours I had been in a constant stage of apology. Sorry I’m late. (Times ten.) Sorry I forgot to text you. Sorry I forgot the water bottle. Sorry you are wet. Sorry your team lost. Sorry I have no dinner plan. Sorry I drank too much wine and fell asleep on the couch at 9:00 PM. Sorry I’m (still) tired. Sorry about the dog (acting like a dog). Sorry about the injustice of your whole situation. Sorry I cannot fix it. Sorry you are losing your mind. Sorry I must be losing my mind!”

I think my favorite line is “sorry about the dog acting like a dog.” 

This is what so many of us do, and I get it. I apologize for the weather - for your headache - for your neck pain - for your job situation - for the fact that your sandwich came out with choose on it when you said no cheese.

Saying you’re sorry can be a way of empathizing. People will say “it’s not your fault my boss is a tool,” and I’ll say no, but I’m sorry that you’re going through it. That’s the empathy.

But I’m often apologizing for so many other things - not just what I did or didn’t do - of course I’ll apologize if I’m running late - if I missed a deadline - if I forgot something - but it’s that other side of apologizing - the apology you probably don’t even know you ‘re giving, not for what you’ve done or haven’t done, but for who you are. 

That’s the one that I won’t accept. 

Acknowledge when you’re in the wrong, yes. But don’t assume that everything about you is wrong.  A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I’m often a sh*t show when I’m walking out the door. That’s not my favorite quality about myself. Yes, I’m working to be more efficient.

But it doesn’t make you wrong. You are not wrong for being you - for worrying so much about others that you lose track of your own needs - for trying to be so helpful to others that you forget your own schedule - you are not wrong for being so empathetic that you express your compassion with an acknowledgement of another’s suffering.

So next time you are running five minutes late to a session - the next time you have to change your schedule because life happened - don’t apologize to me.

Apology not accepted.



Good talk.

The procrastination of self care

A few years ago, a client suggested a blog title for me. 

The procrastination of self-care.

I filed the title away, and picked at it a few times. We all have a tendency to put off our self-care, whether it’s placing other’s needs before our own or keeping too busy to acknowledge our own needs. But every time I returned to the title, I had little success in creating a substantial post.

Until last week.


Last Monday, I was hit straight in the nose by my own procrastination of self-care. I was driving in to the gym Monday afternoon, and found myself growing increasingly sad. 

The details don’t really matter - but I was coming off of a stretch of some long hours and negotiating the loss of another family member. I’d been keeping my head above water, but I can’t really say I was in a practice of taking care of myself very well. 

And to be perfectly honest with you, I was doing okay. Not great, but okay. 

Until the drive from Bowdoinham to Kennebunk last Monday. Somewhere on that drive, I got sadder and sadder, and by the time I pulled in to the parking lot of the gym, I was completely overwhelmed by my emotions. I dragged my bags out of the car and tried to get my emotions together. 

But it just wasn’t happening. 

I was literally crying as I walked in to the gym.

I nodded to my co-workers when I walked through the doors and immediately put on my giant noise canceling headphones. There was no music playing, but it was the clear sign that I didn’t want to talk to anyone. 

And I didn’t. I couldn’t.

For the next 90 minutes, I kept the headphones on and did the most mindless workout I could think of. I deadlifted for 15 minutes straight.

My throat was burning and the tears were flowing, but methodically, every 15 seconds, I lifted the bar. At the end of 15 minutes I collapsed on the floor, breathless, staring at the ceiling, having emptied myself out in an effort to get myself together.

I took a shower, got ready to coach, and got on with my day. 

By the time I started coaching, I was ready to go. But later that night on the drive home I realized something. 

I had been forced in to the self-care that I was neglecting.

On this day, it played out in the form of uncontrollable emotions. I was sad, and I hadn’t given myself the space to be sad. I said I had, but that wasn’t true. I’d kept myself busy and moving and doing, which meant that I hadn’t given myself an opportunity to actually feel my feelings.  

So myself created that space for me. 

Yeah, that’s an awkward sentence. But it’s absolutely true. If we aren’t purposeful and thoughtful about our own self-care, it will get forced upon us.

Ever gotten sick at the end of a long stretch of stress? Or even a short stretch? Ever found yourself balling your eyes out during an Adele song after a breakup? Gotten a massive headache? Pulled a muscle? Anything physical or emotional? After neglecting yourself by eating poorly, and never sleeping or resting?

Yeah - here’s the thing - you can procrastinate your self-care all you want. You can kick that can down the road a ways - but I can assure you that if you procrastinate taking care of yourself, of really looking after your own needs - then yourself, your body, your emotions, your spirit - will eventually come to collect. And it might be in ways that you cannot dictate.

So as hard as it might be, my challenge to you is this - what can you do today, tomorrow or the next day, to take care of yourself?

And do you need someone to help keep you accountable to that self-care?

Because I do. I’ve recruited friends, my spouse and my co-workers to help me out. Because self-care is harder than it sounds.

But stop procrastinating your self-care.