The Big Picture

 Over the past few weeks, while working on and trying to make sure I keep up with our Fit Family Challenge, I have really taken pause and looked at things in a more “big picture” way.  It’s funny to me how little things, like making sure I get SOME movement in each day, can really change your perspective and how you look at things.

When my youngest was born, I hated the fact that we weren’t in a position where I could be a stay at home mom.  What if I missed something?  What if we weren’t as close as she grew up as I had been dreaming we would be?   Why did my BFF get to stay home and not me?  These were questions that ran through my mind all.the.time.  But there was no changing how our life was, so it was something I learned to deal cope with, and it was hard.

What it did give me though was the ability to appreciate every moment we did/do spend together and the hope that things would eventually change.  I got a better job, the hours were better….I thought this was my time.  Mini me started pre-school and things were good.  Once she was in kindergarten though, I was back to feeling upset and angry.  My job changed some, which meant my hours changed and no the ream of mini being a car rider every day was gone.  We had to enroll her in extended care, and I hated everyday of it.  The first few weeks she cried everyday when she got there.  Now, she was generally only there for 30 minutes, but the tears broke my heart.

I had to find the silver lining.  My job was better than before, a little more money coming in, the schedule change forced me to take time for me everyday…and I used that time to exercise.  I started walking everyday for an hour.  I would grab my phone, listen to a book on tape and could generally crank out 3-3.5 miles in that hour.  When I had blood work done after a while, my numbers were all better, and I was feeling less stressed, but still guilty.

This daily moving though spurred me to do more at home which got everyone moving more.  The hubs and I would take turns exercising while the other played with the kiddos.  It was a nice routine, but I still longed for those SAHM perks.  Enter the opportunity I had been waiting for.  I was unhappy with work and all the changes that continued to happen, especially the workload increase ion everyone and the expectation that we would just take it and deal.  It was bad for morale and EVERYONE was unhappy.  That’s a hard environment to work in, my outlet other than my daily walk was to scan employment postings.  And that where I found my cha-ching!

The job I am in now is, well a blessing.  I honestly don’t know how else to explain it.  For the first time in 15 years I am working with someone who appreciates having school aged children at home and who puts family first the same way I do.  For the first time in 15 years, I can call in and say…”Hey, we have a parent program at school today” without a knot in my stomach for fear of the repercussions.  For the first tie since mini was born, I feel like I have the perks of a SAHM…she is a car rider both ways to school, she can do activities after school at 4:30 because Mom can be there and get her there, I can make my older daughters 5:00 soccer games, I can go to room parties, book fairs, volunteer in the classroom…all because of this blessing that is my new job.

This also means that I have a LOT more time after school to be active with my family.  We can do more nature walks, bike rides, swimming…all because we aren’t getting home in time for dinner to get started.  We get home WAY before that!  It means being able to help teach mini how to ride without training wheels on a weeknight!  It means dropping her off at 4:30 dance class while Big Sis is at soccer, and mom getting in a much needed run.

Looking at how our life is, right now, in this moment, has allowed me to see the big picture…and I tell you what, I wouldn’t change it for anything!  I have the best of both worlds.  My own sense of worth in my job career, and my sense of feeling like a great mom and wife!

shannon the journey


Broken Hearted

Oh friends, what a crazy few weeks its been.  We have been busy with our Fit Family Challenge (mostly walking) and back to school…but the thing that has been keeping me from you is my fur baby boy.  My sweet kitty boo boo is still AWOL.  The neighbor came over last night and thinks that he may have crawled under her porch to pass.  My hubby said that cats will do that, and I am just beside myself about it.  Complete denial.  I keep saying that I am sure it’s going to be a raccoon when we check.  My heart is broken.  I have had pets growing up, well not…I have had dogs.  I have never been a cat owner.  I was actually allergic growing up, so when my oldest asked for a cat 7 years ago we went to the shelter and she looked and I sniffed.  The deal was it had to be a cat she liked and that didn’t make my eyes swell shut.  That is when we found Nelson.

Nelson was one of a litter of kitties left in a box at the door step of the shelter.  After the vet saw him, it was determined that he had been abused and had some structural damage to his face.  He was a wheezer.  He sounded so sad and like an asthmatic old man, but he seemed happy to be going home with us.  When it came time to name him I suggested Nelson.  for some reason he made me think of Major Nelson from I Dream of Jeanie.  I fed him, changed his litter box…but I was steadfast in my statements that he was NOT my cat.  He was my daughter’s.

Nelson let us pick him up and carry him around like a tiny baby.  He loves snuggling and we developed quite the routine.  I wake up in some random cramped position everyday, because I seem to contort myself around him when he gets in bed and snuggles around my knees.  Every morning, I get out of the shower, he meows like a maniac at the bathroom door and I rush to let him in before he wakes up the entire house.   Then I scurry around while he tried to rub himself against my still wet legs.  I rub his belly and then move on to getting ready.  Once realizing the belly rub is done the meowing starts back up and I toss a pony tail holder to him to keep him busy while I finish getting ready.

We go downstairs and have breakfast.   This involves me trying to get myself food and him meowing like a madman again for milk.  We eat, say good morning to the other kitty and the pup, and when I go to leave he follows me outside and scurries off to kill things.

He has his little wheeze, and sneezes like a pro which is gross…at least humans can cover their mouths when things fly out, and he is small due to also having other health issues.  When I was preggers he would lay on my belly, well, until mini me kicked him through there one time…then it was game off.  At about 7-8 months preggers, he crawled into the ceiling of the basement and I panicked to the point of uncontrollable sobs.  This would have been OK except hubby came home from the gym to me in this state worried something had happened with the baby.  I just kept saying, she will never forgive me if we lose her kitty (about DD).

I have walked the street at midnight when he goes out carousing, stood in rain storms urging him out of his hiding place under the car to come inside to safety, woken up on the couch with him curled up so tightly with me that I yell at him for being a pain.  And now here I sit, tears streaming down my face while I type this because I miss him so damn much.  I can’t explain how very much I want it to be a raccoon or some other random creature under the neighbors porch.  I want to believe that he is on an epic adventure and will return soon…but at the same time, I need to know and if so have that closure.  I have screamed about how selfish it would be to go off and die somewhere, and sworn off any other cats after his brother is gone because I don’t know how else to cope with this.    I had two amazing dogs as a child and when it was time, we were together as a family with the vet when it was time to put them down.  I was able to tell them how much I loved them and say goodbye.  I haven’t said good bye to Nelson yet.

My husband keeps telling me what a great life he had, and I know its true.  No one else would have taken this wheezy, sickly little kitty from the shelter.  He is loved beyond measure, and I can only hope that he knows how very much I love him (especially because I told him the opposite so many times when he would make me too crazy).

Say a prayer for me as I go home today and do the hardest thing I have done in awhile, and look under that porch.

shannon the journey

The MOM Challenge – FREE stuff but must register by September 7th

Jessica photo for The JourneyAll the moms in the world are posting their back to school pics of their babies.  Their little ones are off for another year of learning, a year of growing and being a sponge of everything they can.  My kiddos go back on September 8th…so I have a little time still to treasure their sweet faces and messes they create and they live each day.  I have stepped on 1,001,563 Legos this summer.  I know the mess that comes with the word “boy”.

Moms…I have a challenge for you! (Hold your horses, cause I know the “mom” word doesn’t apply to everyone…If you aren’t a mom, you are a woman, a man, a person in this world that is watching all this learning going on around you.  Follow the lead of the kids that are starting those new educations and watch their minds expand and their creativity challenged in new ways.)

Here is the challenge:  (2 parts)

you are worth it#1  Own up to the phrase “I will get back into/start a workout routine when the kids go back to school.  Seriously.  I have heard this phrase a kazillion times from moms and individuals all summer long.  All.Summer.  Kazillion.  It’s driving me crazy.  Reality is though…your body doesn’t really care when summer and fall starts or what that school year time frame is.  Your body does not use the “First day of school” pictures as a guide on when exercise should be added in.  Your body needs you to take care of it right now.  Not in 2 weeks.  Not when you have another 30 minutes free.  Not when you have a different schedule.  You are important enough to put the words “EXERCISE” in your Google Calendar and find 30 minutes or more.  You are.

I did some math.  If your summer is like my summer, you had

  • 13 weeks where kiddos were out of school.  13.
  • 13 weeks is 1/4 of your year.  25%.
  • If you are only making your health a priority for 75% of the year, know that you need to be ok with progress not being 100%.  
  • Taking care of yourself for only 75% of the time is like saying, I am going to drive from New York to California.  I’ll keep enough food and water for myself and take my car to get serviced for tune ups and gas up until around South Dakota.  After that…I’m just gonna cruise.  I’m gonna hit mountains and have bridges to cross, but I’ll be fine.  I’ll just deal with all that when I get to California.  You can’t expect to make progress in your destination if you don’t take care of everything that is needed the entire distance.
  • In 13 weeks, you have 91 days.

#2  Follow your kids’ leads.  Every child has something that they truly fall in love with in school and there seems to be this joy as they get ready to learn.  Some…science.  Others…art.  I know kids that just love to be around everyone else and learning is the other reason they are in school.  😉

  • Be a kid.  Find the joy in what you want to do to help your body be better.  If running is your form of awesome and your body likes it, do that.  If your body likes to start talking to you in ways that say “I hurt” as you run, find something else that you think is fun.  You don’t have to be a runner in order to check off that box that says “exercise” in your to-do.  I’m a big fan right here of not running.  😉
  • Try to remove the fear associated with the term “exercise” or a type of exercise and just go in with the attitude of “Let’s just try this today.”  If you never try, you will never know if that is what you love to do.  Here are a few ways I tried new things… 😉  This might take time (once took me 3 weeks to get enough courage to try a power rack)…and that is ok.  But…you have EVERY RIGHT to try new things.  Not one person, not one body type, not one gender has control over a specific area of a gym or sport.  Not one.
  • It’s time to play.  🙂  Every time I talk with the cancer survivors that I work with I share with them have funthat we will be playing in the fitness center and starting with baby steps.  Playing.  If I tag the word “exercise” or “cardio” to the room…it doesn’t seem as fun.  But IT IS fun…if that is what you like to do and you change your mindset a bit.  I also let them know that if something hurts or doesn’t feel quite right…don’t do it but DO go find something else that works.
  • Soak up the info.  Teachers bring some amazing info to the minds of our kids.  We also have the library, Google and other outlets and credible sources.  See that word “credible”.  I learned that one from my 13 year old.  She can’t use sources online in her classes other than specific ones…and fyi…that does not include blogs.  Her teacher is strict about this and I am SO glad she is learning that a blog someone writes doesn’t equal credible.  Yes, I know, this is a blog.  😉  We need to follow the lead with our kiddos in this aspect as well and pay attention to what we are actually soaking up as adults in regards to info related to health and fitness.  There is a bunch of crap out there that will fill your mind with false hopes, info and stuff that just doesn’t pertain to the body that you have.  Monitor what you are reading and looking at as inspiration otherwise you will just be repeating history when you need to start your next “diet” since the one you read about didn’t work the way you thought it should.

Moms…it is time for YOU.  It is time to get the kids out the door, off our arms and legs clinging to stay with us for just one more week.  It is time to show our kids that no matter what our schedule looks like…WE are important too…and just as important as their little lives and packed schedules of activities and homework.

  • Moms…if you don’t do this for you now, there will be a time in your life when you will look back and wish you did.
  • Moms…if you don’t do this for you now, there will be a time in your life when your kids look back and wish you did this for you…as well as showed them how to make living a healthy life a priority.

free stuffMoms…are you ready?  You in?  Those who want in…I have some fun stuff planned for you!  FREE workouts.  FREE recipes.  FREE accountability.  FYI…it is free.  😉  Sign up at this link by September 7th!  LINK -RIGHT HERE – DON”T MISS IT!

Now…go tell all your other mom friends.  🙂  Go ahead…sharing takes like a second and I know you will be on Facebook or Twitter…or snapping those back to school pics and posting them all over social media way longer than it takes to share this post.  😉

*Jessica – mom to three kiddos who somehow grew to be 13, 10 and 7 years old.  Read more about my story and how I made ME a priority again.  I’m also a StrongFigure Ambassador, fitness instructor, wife and owner of a very large, yellow lab. 🙂

connectThanks for being part of The Journey!  Take a sec and follow our blog so you don’t miss our posts coming up.  You can also find us at the following places:

Fit Family Challenge Days 6-9

I am not going to lie.  I have had moments in these past few days where any one of the above excuses could have worked.  I am PROUD to say that I have been pushing through.  The whole family has been.  It’s actually been kind of inspirational.  It helped that the girls already had pre-planned activities, but they have been god about making sure the hubs and I made time for ourselves too.

So, since last we met, this is what I have been up to:

Day 6: walking

Day 7: swimming and walking (mini me crushed 2.25 miles with me on our walk)

Day 8: rest

Day 9: walk

Now I know what you might be thinking…um, hello, did you see Day 8?  Yes, I did.  i lived it.  But after an hour of lap swimming and a 2.25 mile walk, I was starting ton get some pain back in  my hip and didn’t want to totally derail my ART therapy from the day before too so I opted to rest…just aiming for my step goal.

This has been a pretty great week.  I have been monitoring the food much more closely and making time for myself, as well as fit time for the family.  I think it may be starting to stick for the kids too.  They are learning that just because they have soccer everyday or dance they can still do other activity as well.  I mean, on day 7…we all swam together as a family for an hour, taking turns doing laps and swimming around with mini.  And THEN we all had other activities after that as well.    It was not so long ago that the kids would comeback at us with something like “But I had gym today” or “I should really save my energy for practice.”  Even THEY are cutting back on the excuses as they see the benefits they are getting.

My oldest…is down almost 15 pounds and looks stronger then I ever remember.  We are taking advantage of this weekends Tax-free holiday here in Ohio to buy her all new jeans for school.  I was so proud when she stated that she needed a size bigger in her skinny jeans to fit over her “muscular thighs.”  And mini me…she is crushing things in acro that two months ago she didn’t’ have the strength to do, the swimming is really making a difference in our arm strength.

So today starts day 10, just over a month to go before vacation and the hubs and I have a swim date planned for tonight while the girls are at dance/soccer.  If it’s just the two of us we can just focus on doing laps and building our strength and lung capacity.  I mean, whew, I have an all new respect for swimmers.  It’s hard.

What are your plans for the weekend?

Yours on The Journey,

shannon the journey

Fit Family Challenge and a new twist

I found this picture online courtesy of Poppy over at Facing40 and thought, how perfect that this shows up on my radar right now.  Ultimately, this is my goal.. I have two daughters, one that is a full fledged teen going into high school in a few short weeks and one that truly is my little sponge.  Dad and I can say LOTS of things, but a s mother…as a woman, I am the person their sweet and crazy little estrogen filled minds will look to first.  This is why I try and keep myself accountable.  I want to be healthy for me of course…to feel good and be comfortable in the skin I’m in…but I also want to be a good example to my girls (that and the added bonus that the healthier I am, the longer I can make them crazy in these lives of ours) LOL.

I am VERY proud to say that we are five days into the Fit Family Challenge in our house and we are still going strong.  Even the pup has been getting more exercise as we have been taking her on our hikes and letting her swim in the river.  Here is a recap of what we have done so far:

Day 1: Swimming in the pool
Day 2: Swimming in the pool
Day 3: 2.75 mile bike ride (Mini me was feeling rough by the end of this one)
Day 4: Swimming in the pool
Day 5: Hike in the woods

Now some of these days had overlapping things…we hiked a few days actually, but yesterday that was our main exercise.  I feel like whatever is our main source of focus with exercise is what we will track.  It makes me feel pretty good seeing how well we are doing, and this is NOT counting that fact that I have been pretty good with my step goals too.

I have been so proud of us that I forgot part of the other side of this coin, and that is where my new “twist” comes in.  As a woman getting closer each year to the big 4-0, I have seen this change in my metabolism.  It is not the rapid fire friend of my 20’s, not even the still chugging along friend of my early 30’s.  It has gotten slower, and to me it feels like it has gotten S–L–O–W–E–R.  This is hard when you have been pretty blessed in this arena for the better part of a 15 years.  My metabolism has always been there to keep my happy despite what I achieved in the exercise arena.  Well, no more I say.  This brings me to the new “twist” I am adding to my version of our fit family challenge.

I am generally pretty good about tracking my food on MFP.  But lately I have gotten into the habit of allowing the hard work I do with my workouts allow me more food.  Like if my goal is 1400 cals/day, and I burn 300 working out…I have gotten into the habit of allowing myself 1700 for the day.  And where this is OK, I know, it’s not helping me remove those last few pounds I want to remove.  And when getting on the scale I also am taking into account that with the renewed dedication to working out I have to allow for some influx with muscle rebuild, I still need to be better about the choices I am making and the indulgences I am allowing.

Today I start fresh with MFP and I am aiming to eat the allotted calories for me each day.  No more, no less (well not too many less…I need the fuel to workout out).  I am committed to doing this for a week and see how I feel and how successful I am.

If you have any great family fitness ideas, please share them!  I love swimming and getting some laps in, but I need a little variety as well.  And with soccer this week for the big kid and dance camp for the little, finding time to get to the pool will be tricky for me.

Yours on The Journey,


shannon the journey

Family Challenge Day 2

Well day one of swimming was almost a bust.  My hubby works at the local university so Mini and I suited up to hit the pool.  Got over there, swiped my ID (dressed in my suit with mini in her water wings), and cross over to the big closed sign on the pool.  Um, what?!?  No mention of this on the website, nothing on the door, the girl at the desk didn’t mention it as we water winged our way into the building.  But alas, there will be no swimming in the dark, empty pool.  not only is it closed, its closed for the next MONTH!  The tears start up as Mini is devastated by this news.  I walk back to Susie Oblivious at the desk and was like, “so, I guess no swimming.”  She looks up from her magazine and responds, “oh, us that why she is wearing those.  yeah,. sorry.  Pool is closed.  There is a paper somewhere.”  Then she shuffles through the stack of print outs on her counter until she finds something about the pool closure.  Great.  Tears still coming from Mini.

Think!  Ok, so I call the city rec to see if they have open swim now.  Hallelujah they do, so we get back in the car and drive to the city rec.  Once we arrive and walk in, Mini remembers our scout trip here.  The girls learned about healthy eating and fitness and got to do some exercises.  She seems happy to be here and asks why we don’t come more.  Well, we don’t have memberships anymore.  This answer seems SUPER lame though, especially now with our Family Challenge.  What to do?  Easy, renew!  So I renew the family membership and we are off to the pool.

The water actually feels glorious.  We have opted for the actual rec and not the outdoor pool too so we have the pool pretty much to ourselves.  Mini doesn’t really know how to swim (yet) so this is a 2 fold victory.  We get some kick boards and set to it.  Before I now it, we have been floating and paddling around for an hour!  We still have to hit the grocery store though so I pull a very reluctant and unhappy girl out of the water with a promise to return the next day.

Now, I don’t know of it was the swimming, the hike she took with dad and dog earlier…or just natural inclination but she loaded our cart with fresh fruit and veggies.  I LOVED it!

Today at work I get a text, “when will you be home?”  Someone wanted the family to swim together.  So i finish up my day and head home and this is what I am greeted with

In her suit ready to go back to the pool.  I have to say here in all honesty, the hubs was already in his suit too.  🙂

I hurry upstairs to get my suit on to and we head off.  For day 2 since there were 2 grown ups in the pool, we were ab;e to take turns doing laps while the other played with Mini.  Another fine hour of swimming in for the day, and later this evening we are heading out on a family hike!  Look out world, here we come.

If it were up to Mini, we would be swimming everyday.  And while I do like love the full body, non-impact work outs we get in the pool…I need a little variety in my workouts.  We girls may try and squeeze in a short bike ride before the hike.  We are just on fire.  Hopefully we are going just as strong in 40 more days!

Yours on The Journey,

shannon the journey

Family Challenge Day 1

My hubby is still in recovery mode from his back surgery.  We had hoped that by the end of the 90 day window from the surgeon he would be back to 100%, that is not quite the case.  When he was in the worst part of his pain, he had lots of numbness from where his disc was pressing on the nerve that ran down his leg into his foot.  He had pain, numbness and at times had to walk with a cane.  For someone with a VERY physical job, this was hard…add in our two very active children and it was near impossible.

So now we are cleared by the doc, he can go back to doing everything he did before the surgery…but he still has this numbness from time to time and residual pain.  It’s so hard for me to watch him be in pain and suffer…so what to do?  Well, last night we were sitting in our family room after dinner and he looks at me and says, “Lets see how healthy we can be from now until vacation.”  Now, we have had these little challenges before, but there is more at stake this time.  I know he is worried about begin able to walk around Disney for a few days with how he is currently feeling.  With that in mind, there was no need to pause, I knew this would be good.  “Ok, lets do it!”

So here we are on day one…we have 42 days until we leave and I think that maybe by doing SOMEthing everyday it will help build strength back up in his muscles that was lost during his pre-surgical time and hopefully (fingers and toes crossed) re-strengthening this will help with his pain.

This little challenge is a two-fold one for me though.  I have decided to help get myself back in the habit of sitting here with YOU more to blog each day of the challenge as well.  What the what?!?!  Yep, I’m going to do my best to sit down at least for a few minutes everyday and keep you up-to-date on how we are doing as well as keep my self honest and accountable about how we are doing.

How does that sound?  What I am most excited about with this one is our inclusion of the kiddos too!  It really is a full family challenge, and to me that makes it the best!  So, what do we have planned for day one?  Swimming.

My big girl had a soccer showcase this past weekend on the other side of the state so we all packed up and headed down.  She stayed with her team in one hotel and Mom, dad and lil sis stayed elsewhere.  Sher is going to be a freshman and we were literally just down the way from her so if she needed anything we were right there…but we tried to give her the freedom of being with the coaches, team and team managers.  We know we have to loosen the strings some now that she is in high school.

Anywho…if you know me then you know that I generally don’t swim.  It seems tat whenever we have access to a pool the water is always far colder than I would like, so I just don’t do it.  Well…after 4 hours in the car and sitting through 3 hours of games in 90+ degree heat, I was game for he hotel pool.  It was magical.  The water felt perfect.  We got in and swam around for the better part of 45 minutes before getting dressed and going out to dinner (a nice anniversary steak dinner to top of the night for us and some delish looking ribs for Mini Me).

The next morning Mini wanted to swim again…with how well behaved and patient she has been so far sitting and cheering on her big sis through the heat…how could we say no?!? My first thought too was, “well we were SO hot yesterday that is why the water felt so good, today I’m sire will be no dice.”  Much to my surprise the water felt even BETTER the next morning.  So Mini Me hopped in while Dadoo hit the hot tub for a few…then we had a nice family swim, ending with Momma getting a few minutes in the hot tub.  This renewed my faith in swimming a bit.  Top that off with the hubs stating both the first night and next morning how good it felt on his leg to be in the pool and how that relief actually carried out into the day for him.  Swimming is going to be a BIG part of this challenge.

So here we go, time to “dive in!”


shannon the journey

Tips to Master Those Exercises. Day #1

Jessica photo for The JourneyI promised on Facebook last week that I would be sharing some tips each day on exercises.  Exercises you can do at home.  Exercises that I see done improperly a lot 😉 and some that just are a bit on the fun side but that people just aren’t doing.  ok…this is my type of fun…but women should be doing these more!

I’ve been a big stickler over the last 2 years while teaching classes that you need to take the time to feel what you should feel.  A fellow instructor calls my type of strength training “mindful strength training”.  I have had a lot of success teaching this way and have watched people realize that their bodies are capable of feeling and lifting much heavier than they believed.

But (there is always a but)…trust me…this hasn’t been met with all happy go-lucky attitudes either.  I have heard the complaints.  I have had a gym not want me to teach for them because it wasn’t the norm.  The classes I have been teaching like this have been labeled as “beginner” or “gold”…which is fine, but honestly, you could get an amazing workout in 30 minutes doing it my way and maybe better results than what you have been doing.  The key is…you gotta try and be open to a little change.

Here is what I do hear though…and is also one of the reasons why I stick to what I’m doing:

  • I felt like I was learning how to do the exercise the right way and not just trying to keep up with the actions
  • I can tell that I am stronger than I was a few months ago
  • I realize that I can do this

58151f0ec9db8f4e957a6e271b0932d3One thing I’m noticing though as I’m teaching is the comparison game.  I play this on myself more than I should, I know it is tough to just put it to the back burner and stop.  If you are stuck in a comparison rut…seeing how that one person is doing more than you…remember, your body is not the person next to you.  It is not the person who is behind you that you can see in the mirrors.  Your body doesn’t even have the same history as anyone else…meaning, you are you.  What I do is just that…what I am capable of doing.  What you do is just that…what you are capable of doing.

Why am I saying this?  Because I’ve noticed as I’ve been teaching lately that it has become a topic of conversation as “so what do you lift with this exercise?” or “why are you picking that weight when you do this other weight on this move?”.  Overall…my answer is this…

This is your workout.  This isn’t my workout.  You need to listen to what your body is saying.  You know what injuries or areas that you need to pay attention to and work with your body on those.  You know your body better than I know your body…and you need to challenge it but also listen to it.

In other words…what I lift doesn’t matter while I am teaching a class.  What you are lifting…that is what you need to be paying attention to.

Tip #1:  Lose the Momentum.  Now what does that truly mean?

download (4)I could show you a kazillion videos right now of people doing workouts at their home that are using momentum with their strength training rather than letting their muscles take the full workload and responsibility.  Momentumers (that’s what I’ll call them) are everywhere, including the gym.  I saw momentum take over a tricep extension even this morning in my class…as I was saying “take it slow and count with me 1 – 2 as we bring the arm up, squeeze that muscle, and be in control and count 1 – 2 as we come back down.”  The person did 5 reps while we were still finishing 1.

We are going to give an example of what I’m talking about with a bicep curl today.  It is one of the easiest to explain and one of the most common exercises too…and most people know where their biceps are.


  1.  Grab a soup can or a dumbbell in one hand.
  2. Stand up, nice and tall posture, weight is in the heels of your feet, suck your belly button in and let those tummy muscles help you stand nice and tall.
  3. Put your palm facing up and have your hand down to your side.  Your elbow is next to your side and pretend a screw is going in your elbow into side and won’t let you move away from the side of your body.
  4. Get it in your head…slow, slow, slow…and in control the entire time as you move that weight in your hand up (elbow still by your side).  Count out loud  One-two…and at the end of the word “two” your hand and now by your shoulder and you are squeezing your bicep muscle.
  5. Start going back to the starting position with the same count of one – two and at the end of the word “two” you are back at that original position.

By going slow and taking those moments to count and squeeze in all the right spots…your body is not able to participate in the momentum movement that is going on elsewhere and you are truly focusing on that strength of that individual bicep.  I have also noticed that the fatigue of the muscle will come faster if you do it this way…and you just need to be careful that you don’t speed yourself up just because of the fact that your muscle is getting tired.  Take each step and be diligent in following through.

I went through a few Q & A’s to help you figure out a few things…and if you have any others, please feel free to write it in the comments and I’ll respond.

Q.  What happens if I can’t finish all the steps after I do a few of these (not because of injury…my muscle is just tired)?  A.  That is AWESOME!  In fact, that is called the “point of failure” and I so love seeing people get to this point.  In a nutshell…it is awesome and your muscle things it is awesome too.  Failing in strength training is an ok thing.

Q.  How many should I do?  A.  Good question.  There is a whole science to this question actually and reasons why you would try for lower numbers of reps versus higher number of reps.  To keep it simple, especially if you are just starting to figure this stuff out…let’s just try for 10.

Q.  How much weight should I be lifting?  A.  This is one question you have to figure out for yourself.  It truly is a trial and error type of situation.  How I figure it out is something like this…If I lifted 8lbs and did 10 bicep curls with one arm and could still do 5+ more…I need to pick a heavier weight.  If I lifted 8lbs and did 10 bicep curls with one arm and could still do about 3 more…I need a little bit heavier weight.  If I lifted 8 lbs and did 10 bicep curls with one arm and could only do about 1 more…that is your sweet spot (for today).  If you can’t get to 10 bicep curls…and our goal is 10, you are lifting a little too heavy.  Make sense that just by looking at you I can’t figure this out for you?  You have to pay attention to what your muscle is feeling.  You are the one that has your brain talking with those muscle fibers and nerves and heart and lungs.  You are the one doing the work.

– Jessica

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Clear Your Mind of Can’t

Jessica photo for The JourneyMy life has been consumed with a few things lately…and even through all the changes going on in my own life, I haven’t let the word “can’t” sneak in.

What changes are going on?  Our family moved almost 4 months ago.  Besides being part of one of the worst real estate transactions I have experienced (or at least the top 5)…and I was a Realtor…the moving part is just something I never want to do again with three kids, a dog and a husband.

I would love to tell you that I am sitting in a room where everything is now all put away and organized but that truly is far from the truth.  I have two rooms full of crap that I have no idea where it is going to go.  We have no pictures on the wall other than the ones I put up on nails already in the wall just because I wanted them off the floor to make room for boxes coming.  We have ceilings that were torn out because the almost 40 year old toilets are…well, old and don’t work quite right…and caused water to go all the way to the basement level by a 7 year old using the toilet.  We found out that the seller was not as truthful as she should have been to us and now we are figuring out what all that means.

The setting though…truly priceless.  I have some weeding to do (like 3 acres worth), lots of painting and organizing…but my kids love where we live and so do we.  We have 2 horses next door that we can talk to and pet but don’t have to take care of.  😉  (Bonus!)  A rooster next door likes to let us know that he is awake all hours of the day.  Deer roam freely all around us…and sometimes very close to us.  I basically feel like I am living in a cabin…every single day.  Add a few days where the well doesn’t want to work and it is sometimes like cabin living too.  😉  My teenager loves that part!

That’s just the changes going on in my personal life…although HUGE!

Workwise…I am now the LiveSTRONG Member Engagement Coordinator at the Rochester Area Family Y in Rochester, Minnesota.  I still teach classes and do that part of what I love to do but now I work one-on-one with cancer survivors.  I talk with them before, during and after the program and am their contact person.  If someone wants to get in to the LiveSTRONG program…they talk with me.  I’ve got the lists and the paperwork and make up the 12 cancer survivors that are in each session.  I get to watch them change in those 12 weeks to being people that know they need help getting active again…to being someone who is confident that they are stronger and healthier than they were prior to starting LiveSTRONG.

I posted earlier today on our Facebook page this picture that says “Clear your mind of can’t”.  I know people are struggling in so many different areas of getting healthy…from eating the right foods, moving more, conquering fears they might have, just starting this whole health thing, addictions to whatever might be pulling at you, balance…the list really is a huge one…and everyone has something.  I’ve got my own stuff too.

11535888_10153283641255971_2177794522724346215_nI posted that picture today because I do get to hear a lot of stories.  Stories where the word “can’t” seems to take over.  I hear stories from people who have been on their journey forever and look like everything is together…figured out…but sometimes it is just a picture.  The outside looks great but the inside is all torn apart.  Balance is not in the picture.  I hear stories from people who have found what they love to do and are doing it…stepping over those obstacles in their path…and making it happen.  Then, one of those obstacles get in their way and their tactics for how they overcame them don’t work for the one, stubborn habit they just can’t get rid of.  Failure sets in and they start to turn around in their journey.  I also hear the stories of those who try one product after another…only to seem to gain more weight a few years later than they had put on previously.  They see the next fad and reach for it hoping that this one will be the last…and just put that credit card number into the online screen that sends them their next product.  They don’t understand the science part of what they are doing…because it is a known fact that the majority of people will gain more weight with fad diets.  They are trying and feel helpless and keep grasping at the next new thing to help.  I also know people personally who have been what I like to call…”the regulars”…and then one day they aren’t there.  Their workouts stopped.  I hear them talk about how they want to lose weight or they need to get back to the gym…but still don’t see them.

03ef698d8f19777fd7daf8b01ff43207There is one place though where the word “can’t” isn’t taking the win.  LiveSTRONG.

I have piles and piles of stories I could tell you about how the word “can’t” isn’t winning in that LiveSTRONG room.  Each time I hear one…it helps me remember that I truly have nothing to whine, complain or stay in bed for each morning.  If these individuals who are on chemo, radiation and some on clinical trials can get to the gym and workout…there is absolutely NO reason why I can’t.

Tomorrow I will be graduating 10 of our LiveSTRONG participants.  All cancer survivors.  All have fought something that was meant to kill them.  Some are still fighting…hard.  The determination they have though to be in that room every week with their group sometimes means that they were at Mayo Clinic all morning for treatment and then rush over to the gym to be with their group and exercise.

Say that last sentence out loud…because you need to realize the full extent of what that means.  Someone was poked, had IV’s attached to their body, have drugs in their body destroying every cancer cell possible and other things as well.  They are exhausted not only from a lack of sleep from being at a clinic all morning but because the drugs they take and being pumped in their body keeps them awake so sleep is not a normal part of their night anymore.  Add the chemo fatigue on top of that and it is amazing they are still awake at 1pm in the afternoon.  Stress.  Emotions.  Changes in physical appearance as a result of the drugs.  Doctors appointments all the time.  Knowing what you could do last summer is not possible this summer.

…all that…and still going to the gym to workout.

The word “can’t” is huge.  It can take over your life.  When something else though threatens your life…you realize that you CAN do so many things.  Don’t wait for that moment to realize that CAN is truly where you are right now.

  • When you say “I can’t workout today”…is it true?
  • When you say “I can’t eat salad when I go out to the restaurant.”…is it true?
  • When you say “I can’t find 30 minutes today to do the video or go for a walk.”…is it true?
  • When you say “I can’t eat that healthy froo-froo food.”…is it true?
  • When you say “I can’t do this”…is it true?

I now know 42 LiveSTRONG graduates, who are all cancer survivors, that would tell you…“If I can do it, so can you!”  

Need help figuring out where to start?  We have some great challenges that you can do on your own.  Check them out here.


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Settling In

It seems that life is finally starting to slow down a bit and allow itself to be enjoyed.  It has been so long since I sat down and wrote.  Lets see…since the post surgery update…my hubby is doing SO well.  Like ah-may-zingly well.  He is taking his doctors advice to heart about getting out and moving to get himself back on track.  He has been walking a few miles a day or hitting the gym.  nothing overly strenuous…just the elliptical for right now as he hasn’t been given 100% clearance yet…that comes in a few short weeks, but he is doing great!  I got him a fitbit for Fathers Day to keep him motivated…hoping it fits ok.  He has had a really hard time finding something that fits comfortably on his wrist.

Mini me is rocking out things too.  She has been asked to audition for her dance studio’s Competition Team.  She is over the moon excited about this.  She has a clinic today to get ready and tomorrow is the big day.  Mommy is taking the morning of from work to get her all ready and be there tomorrow. We went and got a new leo to wear, have all our hair stuff ready.  Daddy even found a super cool dance bag to buy if she makes the team.  We have been talking about how much more time this would mean at the studio if she makes it, and she is excited.  I think she found her passion in dance and that makes my heart soar!  We have also talked about the importance of making good choices with this new adventure.  She has always been good with food choices…this one will ask for fruit or veggies  before sweets and chips and stuff 99% of the time.  We have been trying to pick fun activities that will keep us moving too and keep us both in better shape.  She is LOVING her bike right now, so we have been doing long walks with the dog and her on her bike…I even attempted to get back out jogging some but she is too hard of a coach.  She kept shouting that I needed to move faster…I was slowing her down. hahahahha

My big girl had her first night of high school soccer training last night.  Mini me and I dropped her off and then went and did a 1 mile walk.  They worked those girls hard.  They have to pass a fit test in order to even be considered for the team.   They have awhile series of stuff they have to do…sprints, kicks, burpees, juggling, sit ups, laps, etc all in under 27 minutes to be considered.  She started at 35, which wasn’t terrible for her first time out, and that was with stopping to see what had to be done at each station.  It was a shock to her system I think, but in a good way.  She got in the car after and asked if we could start running together.  So proud of how she has stepped up to this challenge.

My new job is awesome!  So family friendly and the schedule is unreal.  I heard someone down the hall the other day say he was “too blessed to be stressed.”  I really feel like that is the best way to describe life right now!

Thanks for taking The Journey with me,


shannon the journey