Back from the Brink

I’m going to be brutally honest. There was a stretch of time in 2019 when it didn’t seem feasible or wise to keep our workouts going at Encore Fitness.

As many of you know, I have lots of other roles and responsibilities, outside of leading exerciswe classes. My husband and I own several businesses, we like to travel, we have a ranch with horses, mules and a variety of other critters, we have kids and grandkids, we manage all the tasks associated with running the Concrete Theatre, and I’m an Associate Faculty member at Skagit Valley College, teaching wellness and fitness.

That’s not unusual — a lot of you are also juggling lots of jobs and interests! And there’s only so much time and energy to go around, right?!

So in November, I invited my fitness friends and fans to get together over dinner and talk about the future of our classes. I’d intended to announce I was “retiring” from Encore Fitness, even though I knew that was up for discussion.

And the discussion went like this: Everyone recognized my desire to streamline my life and understood my frustration with low attendance at some of our workouts. We talked a lot about the last decade at Encore Fitness and how in the beginning, people complained of not having enough space — then more recently, how much empty space there was. Where was “so and so” and why do you think “that person” stopped working out, and what would it take to get “that cool woman” back, we all lamented.

It was beginning to feel somewhat pointless, as we took stock of the previous year and realized how few of us were regular members in our classes.

Then one young woman, fairly new to our circle, shared how much she hoped we’d continue with classes. She related how lost and lonely she’d felt before coming to Encore Fitness, being new to town and having just had a baby, and how much being part of our workout group had meant to her physical and mental health.

In my mind, that sealed the deal. I knew exactly what she meant. Group fitness isn’t as much about fitness, as it is about group.

Maybe you know what I mean? Maybe you’re having trouble getting motivated or spend too much time at home, or have tried exercising on your own, only to give up and quit.

Or maybe you feel the need to connect with like-minded women and experience some light-hearted conversation.

I started teaching fitness classes in 1983 and learned very quickly that while there is magic in the movements and music, the real magic happens in our minds.

Please consider joining us as we start our fitness classes again in 2020. If not for your own health and wellness, consider doing it for the rest of us! There’s POWER in numbers. There’s MAGIC in music, movement and mindful activity.

We hope to see you and sweat a little with you. Get in touch with me if you need help getting started or want to talk before coming to your first class.

Thanks for reading,

The trouble with websites . . .

… is that it takes time to keep them updated, and time is one thing no one seems to have enough of these days. Am I right?

I’ve been reading Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day, (and I even bought an hourglass!), so I hope to do better at keeping this site more current.

So if you’re reading this in 2021 and nothing new has been added, you’ll know my plan was an epic fail!

And you’re welcome to send me a message to say: What the Heck?!

Gratitude Saves Our Sanity

Want to stay sane over the holiday season?
It’s been proven that gratitude can increase our sense of well-being and happiness. While it may take some practice to be grateful when it feels like the sky is falling, it really does work!

Studies have shown that gratitude can reduce stress and anxiety, improve intimate relationships, and even promote physical health.

A gratitude-filled approach to life has the potential to enhance your general health both this holiday season and all year long.

What is there to be grateful for?

Well, for starters, as you prepare to celebrate, be thankful:

  1. For family, even if certain relatives drive you absolutely batty.
  2. For the awareness that you are not responsible for the bad behavior of others, even if they are related to you!
  3. For those friends who love and support you no matter what.
  4. For the abundance of food — knowing that people are starving in every corner of the world, while our plates are often over-flowing every day.
  5. For the generosity of others who lead by example, whether by giving their time, money, or talent.
  6. For good health — the most important and valuable gift of all, the one that can’t be bought, wrapped, or returned.
  7. For the wisdom of parents and grandparents, both present and deceased. Be grateful that who you are today is a result of their guidance and struggles.
  8. For the knowledge that complete dinners are available for purchase at the grocery store should yours suddenly go up in smoke.
  9. For the realization that something will inevitably go wrong even under the best of circumstances, and that it is okay if it does.
  10. And lastly, be grateful that this day, dinner, or disaster will soon pass and you can get back to your real life soon!

Feel the Fear, Do it Anyway

In my women’s wellness course this month, I’ve recommended the book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers, Ph.D.

It’s not a new book: it’s been out for 20 years. It’s been read by millions and has no doubt helped millions face their fears.

The fear of public speaking, spiders and flying, those kind of scary things are easy to relate to.. they may not disrupt our day-to-day life (unless you have a lot of spiders at your house or you have to travel by plane, or until you’re called on to speak!).

Trouble is, sometimes we don’t even recognize the fears, worries and anxieties that get in the way of our happiness. The nagging concerns about finances, health, our jobs, our relationships. The things we don’t feel we can change – or we’re simply too afraid to consider changing. Those are the areas this book can help with the most.

Because underlying all those fears is your inner voice saying, “If that happens I won’t be able to handle it.”

The author shows you how to get over yourself, how to get out of your own way, how to have a happier life.

Feel the fear Contents

Some of my favorite quotes:

“Taking responsibility means never blaming anyone else for anything you are being, doing, having, or feeling.”

“Remember that underlying all our fears is a lack of trust in ourselves.”

“Every time you encounter something that forces you to “handle it,” your self-esteem is raised considerably. You learn to trust that you will survive, no matter what happens. And in this way your fears are diminished immeasurably.”

“Negative thoughts take away your power …”

“A self-assured woman who is in control of her life draws like a magnet. She is so filled with positive energy that people want to be around her.”

Lift something heavy. Peas, purse or pumpkin.

If you’re determined to be healthy, strong and independent as you age, you need to be lifting something heavy on a regular basis.

How heavy?

That depends on your current health and fitness, but almost everyone can lift something. Start with a can of peas. Progress to a heavy purse (loaded with cans of peas, if necessary!).

And since this is October and you may have a pumpkin sitting around looking decorative, you may as well put that to good use.

Almost anything you can do with a medicine ball (you know, those heavy round things in gyms), you can also do with a pumpkin. Just watch out for the stem!

Here’s an example of a pumpkin exercise: Knee Lifts!

Why is weight training so important?

Your muscle mass largely determines your resting metabolic rate—how many calories you burn by just living and breathing.

Weight lifting doesn’t only train your muscles; it trains your bones. When you perform a bicep curl, for example, your muscles tug on your arm’s bones. Your bones become stronger and more dense.

Plus, by constantly challenging yourself to do things you never thought possible, your confidence grows.

Need help developing a weight-training program? Get in touch.

What are you doing to your toes?

Toe Pain

The sad truth: I have osteoarthritis in both of my big toes. For 20 years I taught step aerobics and I’m pretty sure the repetitive motion of that activity is what burned out the cartilage between those toe joints. At least I had a really great time doing it.

But about 10 years ago, the pain in my toes became so bad that I finally went to a podiatrist who confirmed I was doomed. She said emphatically that I needed to:
1. Quit all high-impact activities — anything that included running and jumping
2. Get a steroid shot in my toes every few months to reduce the pain
3. Buy some $500 orthotics to take the pressure off my toes when I walked

The first recommendation I chose to ignore; the second I followed for one month, until the thought of going back for another ginormous needle inserted directly into my toes caused my stomach to lurch; the third I complied with gleefully, believing that if I just threw some money at the problem it would go away. I was so excited, I bought two pairs, just so I’d be totally covered in the orthotics department.

Have you ever used orthotics?! The ones I was prescribed didn’t fit into my regular dress shoes, so I had to buy more dress shoes. Not too much a problem. See “throwing more money at the problem,” above.

But they didn’t work at all in my workout shoes, they slid around and created blisters. (This must have been the podiatrist’s little joke on me. I could barely move, much less jump up and down.)

It wasn’t too long before I ditched them altogether. Well, they’re probably still here somewhere, a handy reminder that money alone usually solves nothing.

About that time I became a fan of Katy Bowman, a biomechanics expert from Sequim, WA, who wrote a book about foot pain, has an impressive body of work on natural movement, and produces a funny, informative and irreverent podcast.

Side note: Katy recently removed the chairs from her house, choosing to encourage her family to sit on the floor. How’s that for bold moves in the name of healthier bodies?

After reading Katy’s research, I had to ask myself. Could it be that my toes — my entire foot, in fact — needed to be set free? To be strengthened instead of protected from moving? To stop being abused by my shoes?

So I got rid of my dress shoes with heels and bought (plain, yes, sort of boring) flats. I stopped wearing my boots with 2-inch heels. Crazier still, I stopped wearing padded, built-up-in-the-back workout shoes.

I chose the most minimal shoes I could find. I started going going barefoot in the house at all times. Well, I wear socks because my feet are always cold, but I’m standing at my desk as I type this, with both feet planted firmly on the floor, all four corners of them touching down. Just like our feet were intended to support us.

Within 2 months of these changes, I noticed a difference in the way my entire body felt. Less back strain, fewer knee issues. Better posture and better balance.

And my toes? They aren’t 100%, since cartilage doesn’t regenerate. But they are now 80% pain free. In fact a week can go by when I don’t even think about my toes at all, unless I bang into something or my granddaughter steps on them.

Think about it. What are your shoes doing to your body alignment? How much are your feet allowed to move, breathe and get stronger?

Find Katy:
Katy Bowman:
Katy Bowman’s Facebook page:
On Sticher:

Who Are You Really Cheating?

cheat day

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I often hear the women I’m coaching talk about “cheat days,” those glorious-sounding times when they allow themselves to eat whatever they want, to overeat, to forget about the “diet” and just enjoy themselves.  If that sounds like you, the question is: Who are you cheating?

Some say that giving yourself a day off from worrying about what you eat provides a relief that can strengthen your willpower once the day is over.

To that I’d say: Why are you worrying so much about food to begin with?

Others argue that cheat days can increase the hunger-dampening hormone leptin, boost metabolism and actually help you lose weight.

My response? I don’t know for sure, but it sounds like you’re looking for a good excuse to eat a lot of unhealthy food for a day! I could be wrong, though.

One of the biggest issues I have with cheat days is the name itself. If you’ve been separating food into “good” and “bad” categories, if you’ve been strictly restricting what you eat, if you’ve denied yourself all pleasure of eating, if you’re looking for a rationale for “eating everything in moderation,” my suggestion is to go back to the basics of clean eating.

Clean Eating 101

(1) Diets don’t work for the long haul. Sure, if you restrict your calories you’ll lose weight, whether you completely give up carbs, protein or fat … or all three?! When you cut out an entire food group, of course your calorie intake will shrink and so will your waist. For a while. Until you go back to a healthier, more reasonable eating plan that you can live with.

(2) The 80-20 rule works best for most of us. That’s the philosophy that trying to eat healthy and clean (ie., unprocessed foods without added sugar and chemicals, etc.) at least 80% of the time is a reasonable goal. The other 20%? Well, that’s where life comes in. When you find yourself at lunch with friends in a restaurant with very few healthy options, or you forget to plan ahead and have a long commute without your veggies next to you.

(3) We need to stop restricting ourselves when it comes to food choices. Stop thinking in terms of all the things you “can’t” have and start enjoying the foods you “can.” Instead of, “I can’t eat that much red meat anymore,” think in terms of, “I’m treating myself to healthier high-protein options that I love, like salmon, eggs and turkey.” Learn which foods make you feel good, which ones make you feel gross.

(4) Weigh yourself no more than once a week and start looking for “non-scale victories.” Your clothes fit better, you have more energy, you’re sleeping better, you’re happier. I don’t care what the numbers on the scale say, I’d take any of those victories over a half-pound weight loss that those highly inaccurate bathroom scales are telling me about — wouldn’t you?

So when you’re looking forward to a cheat day when you can relax and eat whatever’s in front of you … make sure what’s in front of you is the highest-quality cheat food you can find. Savor every bite. Don’t go hog-wild. Listen to your body, it’ll tell you what it needs.



8 Reasons Women Need Weight Training

The verdict is in: Women need more weight training.

Cardio workouts are fun. Don’t get me wrong, I love Zumba and Country Heat and Cize, and almost anything that gets my body moving to the music.

But my goal is to be strong and healthy as I age so I can remain independent and active. And I know that will take more than cardio endurance and a strong heart. It takes strong bones and muscles and a strong attitude.

Here are 8 reasons you should fall in love with weight training:

1. You’ll Lose More Fat
The average woman who works out with weights two to three times a week for eight weeks gains 1.75 pounds of lean muscle and loses 3.5 pounds of fat.

2. Muscle Helps Fight Obesity.
As you add muscle from strength training, your resting metabolism will increase, so you’ll burn more calories all day long.

3. Your Bones Will Benefit.
By the time you leave high school, you have established all the bone mineral density you’ll ever have–unless you strength train. Research has found that weight training can increase spinal bone mineral density by 13 percent in six months.

4. You’ll Reduce Your Risk of Diabetes.
Adult-onset diabetes is a growing problem in the US. Research indicates that weight training can increase glucose utilization in the body by 23 percent in four months.

5. You’ll Fight Heart Disease.
Strength training will improve your cholesterol profile and blood pressure, according to recent research. Of course, your exercise program should also include cardio exercise and flexibility training.

6. You Can Beat Back Pain and Fight Arthritis.
A recent 12-year study showed that strengthening the low-back muscles had an 80 percent success rate in eliminating or alleviating low-back pain. Other studies have indicated that weight training can ease arthritis pain and strengthen joints.

7. It Will Work No Matter How Old You Are.
Women in their 70s and 80s have begun weight training — studies show that strength improvements are possible at any age.

8. You’ll Strengthen Your Mental Health.
A Harvard study found that 10 weeks of strength training reduced clinical depression symptoms more successfully than standard counseling did. Women who strength train commonly report feeling more confident and capable.

Why we gain belly fat as we age

Are you sometimes frustrated with the way your clothes fit or discouraged that your stomach sticks out more than it used to?

Here’s why our bellies get bigger:

1. Stress often results in overeating and late-night eating, when we use food to unwind. It also causes us to not breathe deeply, which can lead to bloating. Ever notice at the end of a stressful day your belly pooches out more than it did in the morning?

2. Food choices add to bloating and belly fat, especially if we aren’t getting enough probiotics and digestive enzymes in our diet. And if you struggle with food cravings, you may be eating too much sugar, salt and fat — all those add to belly problems.

3. Hormones control every aspect of weight loss, including our appetites and body fat distribution. Our bodies are hard-wired to store excess fat in our belly, more so as we age.

4. Metabolism slows down as we age, as we lose muscle and gain body fat. Since we’re burning fewer calories, the excess goes to our middles.

Want to make some changes?

Relax, Strengthen & Stretch
This month I’m going on a “3-Week Yoga Retreat” — in my own home. You can, too! It’s a brand new program, available only on Beachbody on Demand (BOD)… that’s like the Netflix of fitness, with hundreds of great workouts at your fingertips!*

The “3-Week Yoga Retreat” includes simple, easy to follow 30-minute yoga workouts led by excellent instructors. No fluff, no chanting. We’re burning calories here, not incense.

Change Your Nutrition
This “Retreat” also includes daily Shakeology, the health food shake that provides prebiotics, probiotics, fiber, and all the vitamins and minerals your digestive system needs to function correctly. This is what can reduce belly fat and eliminate bloating.

Shakeology does more than just provide good nutrition – it helps you stop craving junk, sugar and unhealthy snacks. It’s the basis of a clean-eating program.

Why not spend 3 weeks on getting healthier and reducing belly fat? Imagine how much better you’ll look and feel.

To join in, just reply to this message and let me know — I’ll make sure you get enrolled. And when you finish the 3-week retreat? Share your testimonial with me, and I’ll send you a $10 Amazon gift card to treat yourself to tea or coffee with a friend!

Please e-mail me before September 15 so I can help you get started.

Aging Got You Down?

There’s so much doom and gloom about aging and what it does to our hormones, body composition, weight gain and overall health. For instance, we know that  menopause can increase our risk of heart disease. Take a look:

• The blood vessels and heart become stiff and less elastic. High blood pressure, or hypertension, puts added strain on the heart.

•  A drop in estrogen can lead to increased levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL), while “good” cholesterol (HDL) levels decrease or stay the same.

• Metabolism can slow with age, making us more prone to weight gain.

• After menopause, we become more resistant to insulin, leading to a higher risk of diabetes.

The good news is we are not helpless against these problems!  Yes, of course our bodies change as we age (especially after menopause) but that doesn’t mean we have to throw our hands in the air and declare,
“I guess I’m just going to be heavier, slower and more tired.”

Because I don’t believe it!

Aging just means we need to make some adjustments to our eating habits, exercise and mindset. NOT through starvation diets or grueling workouts or self-hypnosis (although I think that last thing is sort of fun!).

It takes small changes in our daily actions, including better nutrition and consistent physical activity.

Think about it. How do you want YOUR story to end?!

If you’re determined to stay fit, healthy and lean throughout your life, let’s get together and talk about ways to do that. I have several new online groups coming up that will help provide the support and motivation you need.

Contact me to save your spot!