Fitness Tips from a Trainer: 2017

Gosh, I’ve grown a lot as a trainer and a leader this year. Here’s why:

  • I’m connected weekly to a mentor, a friend I respect and trust. She asks hard questions, encourages me, and leads by example.
  • I’ve developed measurable goals, and I’ve written them down. (We’ll come back to that.)
  • I’m reading again…voraciously. Books on entrepreneurship, the pursuit of Christ, parenting, rest, personal development, habit-formation, leadership skills, and nutrition.

Maybe you’re struggling with your weight (again), or monotony or motivation, or maybe you’re just tired of feeling terrible. Hopefully some of these tips can give you the swift kick in the glutes you need to make 2017 the start of your BEST YOU. Just because you didn’t achieve last year’s goals doesn’t mean you can’t achieve them this year. πŸ˜‰

1. Develop Measurable Goals.

-What do you want? Really? Now write that down. Like on paper…don’t type it. Use your hand and a pen and paper and write it down, then stick the paper somewhere visible. Writing them down makes them more real; established.

“It’s only a dream until you write it down, then it becomes a goal.” Thanks, Emmitt Smith!

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2. If you are clinically obese, overweight, have Type II Diabetes, COPD, high cholesterol, hypertension, or heart disease, did you know these are preventable diseases?

-To reverse the process of disease, you must change your habits…habits that are just as easy to do as they are not to do. Walk daily. Lift heavy things (with proper form). Order a salad and soup instead of a burger and fries. Drink more water. Restrict alcohol and sugar. Sleep. For more help on habits, read The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg.

DID YOU KNOW: If you eat a bowl of conventional cereal and a glass of orange juice for breakfast, you’ve maxed out your sugar intake for the DAY?! Can you imagine if you had several donuts and a Dr. Pepper? So start with breakfast…less sugar, more protein.

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Take care of the ONE BODY you were given, and don’t complain too much when it rebels against you for treating it poorly.

3. Decide.Β 

-I’ve been hearing this phrase a lot lately: “Because I decided to.” Sometimes our mind has to decide what our body, heart and soul needs. This is true of monumental decisions like the covenant of marriage or committing our lives to Jesus Christ. It’s also true of lesser decisions like paying the registration fee for a half-marathon, hiring a trainer, calling the friend, cleaning up our diet, quitting a job, joining a gym, saving money, attending church, etc. We may not fully know what we’re doing, but we know we need to do it. So we decide to.

I’m mature enough (finally) to slow down and take notice when God sends the same stories, same phrases, same testimonies like paper airplanes floating across my busy life.Β  I’ve heard, “I just decided to…” at least a dozen times in the past couple of months. This definitive decision just may lead you forward toward achieving your goals.

10Β Whatever your hand decides to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. Ecclesiastes 9:10

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4. Do cardio at the end of your workout; about 5-20 minutes worth.

-Save your mental and physical prowess for the tough part: the strength or functional training. If you’re eating properly, strength training will do more for body transformation than cardio ever will. I strength train 5x/week with cardio bursts on two of those days. I don’t even teach cycling anymore…and though I miss the sweat, my body hasn’t suffered.

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A frigid Bentonville 5K last year…about the only time Joey and I run anymore is for a 5K.

5. Develop Your Why

-This is so cliche, but I can’t convey to you how important it is. First figure out why you are pursuing better health, then determine how. Your “why,” they say, should make you cry. It should get you out of bed in the morning. If it doesn’t, there’s a good chance you won’t follow through, especially if you’re someone who hasn’t developed healthy habits. Spend time on this. Come up with “21 Reasons Why,” so when it gets hard (and it will), you have 21 reminders not to quit.

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I don’t know what it is for you, but for me, I cannot–simply cannot–make excuses not to move my body when Finn, my little man curled up warm in his toddler bed as I type, does not even have the choice to jump, run, climb, cycle, walk. What he wouldn’t give for the opportunity to run until his knee hurt or hike a mountain with his Daddy, legs bloodied and bruised! I’ll use the body God gave me to inspire others and honor Finn.

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Okay, confession: I have this terrible habit of seeing potential in people.

You name it, I think it has potential to be redeemed. Marriages. Sinners. Children with disabilities. Foster children. Churches. Insecure women. Ugly homes. Struggling businesses. Boring recipes.

And when I see an overweight person, my mind can whittle them down to the way I believe God created them to be: strong and firm, capable and alive. I’ve seen so many body/mind transformations over my 13 years of personal training that I know it’s possible. I see the clean whites of their eyes, the blood pumping confidently through their veins, and they stand taller.

This “vision for potential” gets me in trouble because I dream big for myself or for you, but oftentimes I’m let down when that vision may not become reality. God sees potential in us too because we are His craftsmanship, made in His image. Your first “why” can be to give God your best effort because He created you to live abundantly.

1 Corinthians 10:31 “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.”

If you’re feeling bold, share your “why” in the COMMENTS below! I’d love to pray over them for you.Β 

For more fitness tips:

2013, 2014, 2015, 2016

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One Word: Servant

2015, my one word for the year was Peace.

For 2016, my word was Rooted. I don’t feel I fully embodied this word. It will be a lifelong goal of mine–to be firmly rooted in Christ, unshaken by what others think of me. However, I was challenged to dig down deeper into Him this year. I had many opportunities to be alone, rejected, ignored, heartbroken, disappointed, and worse: misunderstood. But like an oak in a summer storm, my branches sway, but my roots go down deep and I am unmoved. If His love for me doesn’t change, then it grounds everything.

For 2017, I’m focusing on who I want to become: a Servant.

Luke 22:24-30 “And there arose also a dispute among [the disciples] as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. And He said to them, “…but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. “For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves. “

Leading is natural for me; I’m confident in that role. Following, going unnoticed, and being a servant is not so natural. Jesus says the leader must be like the servant. He was a servant to his disciples on earth, going so far as to wash their nasty feet with his calloused hands.

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Paisley is impatient like me…she pushes me to listen to her FIRST.

 

I’m reading Present Over Perfect by my favorite Christian author, Shauna Niequist, and though I’ll write a lengthier blog post about what I’m learning from her wisdom another time, I want to share something that resonated with me.

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She said to think of our relationships as concentric circles, and the people closest to us (Joey, Finn, Paisley) are in the inner circle. Jesus, of course, is at the very epicenter. Then the relationships extend outward in more and more circles.

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My “center circle.” Our little family at Life.Church for one of our Christmas services.

 

My aim for 2017 is to be a servant to the people who matter most, those Loves in my inner circle. Sometimes I’m best at serving strangers…people who will forget me tomorrow.

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We had the BEST time at Nana and Papa Armstrong’s log cabin for Christmas! We are richly blessed.

“We disappoint people because we are limited. We have to accept the idea of our own limitations in order to accept the idea that we’ll disappoint people. I have this much time. This much energy. I have this much relational capacity.” -Niequist

I hate disappointing people, and I hate admitting that I can’t do it all. I’m not Supermom. I can’t train every warm-blooded human being in Tulsa. I can’t become an Arbonne RVP without a team. My energy and time and patience are limited. If Jesus needed to get away on a mountainside to re-energize, pray and rest, I will need that even more so.

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Joey read the Nativity story to us on Christmas Eve-Eve morning.

 

Servanthood is not allowing people to abuse me and my kindness. It’s not passive. Instead, I believe it’s an active choice to put others’ needs ahead of my own–again, unnatural for me. I think first about how to serve Joey and the kids–how can I make their lives richer? Then I think of myself. I think first about my clients’ health needs and then about my paycheck.

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I’ve gotta get it right with Joey, my Love, my Best Friend.

1 Corinthians 10:24 Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.

Jesus, help me become a more humble, willing servant this year, starting with the people in my home. Ultimately, I’m pointing others toward you, who “existed in the form of God, [and] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant.” (Phil 2:6)

Happy New Year, dear friends!

How to Roast Vegetables

(Many of you have requested this post, so here it is, but please don’t judge. I’m FAR from a foodie blogger or photographer…but I have some friends who are great at that if you’re interested!)

As a kid, I hid my green peas under my mashed potatoes like the rest of you. But early in our marriage, Joey and I found a way to LOVE vegetables…roasted. Here’s how we do them:

  1. Preheat a smokin’ hot oven…like 450-500 degrees.
  2. Wash (duh) your veggies and cut them all about the same size so they cook evenly. This is important, people. You can’t have a long stem of asparagus with diced zucchini or some large potatoes with some cubed.

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    SHARP knives are safer!

  3. Create a “medley” of veggies of about the same texture. Some examples:
    1. Sweet potatoes, purple potatoes, carrots
    2. Zucchini, onions, zucchini squash, peppers
    3. Asparagus, artichokes, French green beans
    4. Broccoli, cauliflower
    5. Brussels sprouts and green onions…or add sliced red grapes for sweetness

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      This is honestly not the best example because they aren’t all the same size…but it was what was left in our fridge before Christmas. πŸ™‚

  4. Chopped onions and minced garlic go well with all veggies. We love red onions, sweet yellow and green onions the best. White are gross. Ew.
  5. Drizzle the veggies with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). My mom actually pronounces this “ee-voo.” πŸ˜‰ You could also use coconut oil. img_6008
  6. Sprinkle with sea salt or Pink Himalayan salt if you want to be fancy. We don’t do black pepper but you could.
  7. Roast on the top rack for as long as it takes for them to get soft, caramelized and golden brown. Usually this is 15-25 minutes…potatoes take the longest. img_6009
  8. DIVE IN! In our house, veggies take up at least half our plate at dinner. img_6010
  9. If your kids are picky, call them “chips.” We eat “green bean chips” and “kale chips” and “edamame chips.” Make them crispy.
  10. The prettier (more colorful) the vegetables, the richer they are in nutrient content and the more fun your kids will have with them. fullsizerender-67

Why Do You Keep Coming?

I was at a women’s church event once and the leader was demonstrating how to make this adorable craft. I remember thinking, “Who has time for this?! I don’t have time for this.” But then I realized many people probably feel that way about working out.

We make time for what is important to us.

Monday morning, my clients and I were discussing why we work out–regularly; okay, even religiously. Here are some of our responses:

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“I figure if we have hamstrings, they should probably be used for something. If we want things to function properly, they must be used.”

“I’m in a better mood after a good workout.”

“My kids are proud of me. They think I’m strong and it makes me feel good that they know I’m stronger and fitter than other moms.”

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“It keeps me sane and allows me to release frustration or anxiety.”

“I no longer struggle with depression.”

“I want to look and feel my best.”

“I realize not everyone has the ability to move the way I can, so I shouldn’t waste it.”

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“I hurt less–in my body.”

“I like the way it feels to fit into my clothes.”

“Everything is easier now. Lifting groceries or kids, doing household chores.”

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“My kids do the weekend workouts with us and they have fun. I like that we’re setting a good example of being active.”

“I like a challenge, especially when I’m challenged by the other girls in the group.”

“It’s cheaper and more effective than therapy.”

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“I’m a better mother, wife and friend when I’ve worked out consistently.”

“It makes me feel confident.”

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Why do YOU workout?

Or maybe, WHY DON’T you?! If you’re struggling, I’d love to help. Click on my Online Training tab if you live 30 minutes from Tulsa, or come see me at Sky Fitness & Wellbeing, south location.

What Are You Waiting For?

I struggle with impatience; always have.

When I was five, I wished I were 25. As a teenager, my mom gave me this little Willow Tree figurine of a girl with her arms folded across her knees, waiting. I set it on my nightstand, asking God for patience until we had Paisley and now it sits on hers.

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Thankful for cozy winter nights with Joey

I’m a doer. I like action, movement, change. Procrastination is silliness to me. In my arrogance, I think my timing is best, and God is usually a little late. He is never in a hurry like I am.

I hate waiting because it feels like time is wasted, and time is something I value highly. But if I believe each breath is a gift, each day an expression of God’s mercy, then it holds true that with God, time spent waiting is never wasted.

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College Roomie Christmas brunch…our 8 little loves, minus one!

In fact, I believe the waiting period is perhaps what it’s all about. I teach my clients to focus on the process, not the end (“I will exercise 5x this week.” Not, “I will lose 5 pounds.”). The interim is where we find out what we’re made of, and our attitude matters. When we are waiting–on a person, a prayer, our big break, the light in the darkness, forgiveness, love, healing, a job, whatever–our character is being forged and time is not wasted.

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Christmas Train at Dry Gulch!

When I was pregnant with Finn, we knew he would be born different, but we didn’t know exactly how or to what extent. Some days I was terrified of what could be. Some days I was hopeful. There were months that Joey and I both cried ourselves to sleep. There were moments of clarity and intimacy with God like I’d never experienced before. Although those several months were some of the darkest of my life, I know without a doubt, that time was not wasted.

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Finn and Pais helped me decorate the bottom 1/3 of the tree

I like to imagine Mary, Mother of Jesus, felt something similar as she waited for her son to arrive. She was told He would be no ordinary boy. He was the long-awaited Messiah. How overwhelming for a young mother!

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage.” Ps. 27:14

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

“It is good to wait quietly on the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:26

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Nana and Papa Rosell visited!

If you’re waiting, settle down. Take a deep breath. The big moments are the daily, tiny moments. In this season of Advent, I await the arrival of Jesus, the Savior of my soul, and I don’t want to waste it.

Here We Are

So it’s been too long, and I’m sorry.

I’ve been longing to write to you; I’m teeming with ideas to share, but honestly, the things I’m learning about life and business and family right now, I’m not sure you want to hear, so I’ve kept quiet. In short, I’m learning about how to be a better, more courageous leader and Christ-follower. A consistent, patient entrepreneur. An understanding and supportive friend. An irrationally generous giver. I’m making exchanges (not sacrifices) in my life right now that do not afford me time for Project Runway reruns, crafting or margin to blog.

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But it’s been TOO LONG, and we had some stellar family photos taken, so here I am. It’s post-church naptime for the kids and my To Do list can wait.

We are The Armstrongs.

We work hard. We are kind. We do difficult things on purpose. We have fun. We choose to be brave. We forgive freely. We love each other. We follow Jesus.

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Finn is loving PreK. We love Mrs. Brown–she makes learning fun. He is great with spelling and language. He’s a terrible writer/artist and I think it’s hilarious. His aide told Joey one day, “The first thing I noticed about Finn is that he has a lot of friends.” P E O P L E!!!! You’ve been praying for friends for Finn! THANK YOU! He has friends, praise Jesus. Another aide told us “Finn is the best part of my day,” –and her job is to wipe his butt. πŸ˜‰

His wheel got stuck in the grass and he fell over in his chair a couple weeks ago. No teachers were around, but his buddy Thomas ran to get the teacher. Finn was freaked out and had a bump on his head, but he’s fine. This wasn’t the first time and won’t be the last. I get asked a million questions about Finn each day when I pick him up. “Why can’t he walk?” “Is he a baby? Why is he wearing diapers?” “What’s that thing on his back?” “When will he get better?” “What’s wrong with him?” They are asking honest, innocent questions I don’t always have the answers to. I don’t mind answering these questions, but I hate that it’s in front of Finn. And if I get all these questions in 5 minutes, I wonder how many he gets throughout the day? My heart hurts for him, but God gave Finn such a resilient spirit. It doesn’t seem to bother him at all. He is a good, kind Father.

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Paisley is so spunky. Okay, and naughty. Her sense of humor is subtle and smart. She observes people before she’ll befriend them. She loves ‘nastics and jumping and climbing and being upside down. She is full of life and extremely independent. “Gummy” (gum) is her favorite and she loves to pack her Paw Patrol lunchbox with all kinds of random items for “school” so she can be like Finn. She likes to sing and dance. I can’t get over how beautiful she is. I’m so grateful she has a daddy who will protect her fiercely.

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This morning on the way to church, Finn said that he “want[s] to marry Paisley, and I’ll blow her a kiss.” Paisley told me yesterday that Bubba (Finn) was her best friend. She helps him pop over bumps in the sidewalk, rides his back like a “horsie” and races him with her baby stroller. Their friendship is a gift from above.

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Joey and I have had a tough few months. I blame Dave Ramsey. We’re doing Financial Peace University with another couple from Life.Church, and though these are conversations we obviously needed to have and there is always room for improvement when it comes to spending and saving, I am TIRED of talking about money. The conversations are unsexy, exhausting and difficult to trudge through. We’ve learned a lot about our personalities and fighting fair during this process though, and in a few hours, we’ll meet the Gates for pizza and to discuss our last FPU session to celebrate. Praise. Jesus.

Joey is so good to me. He’s fun. He’s my best friend and lover. He unloads the dishwasher like a ninja. And I love to watch him “dad.” I’m truly a better human being because of his influence in my every day life.

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Thanks to Maylee Hill for taking such fantastic photos of our family! She is super talented and captured our personalities so well. I love the color in these shots. We took these photos on the Eastside of Tulsa near the Blue Dome District. Check out her website!

As the holiday season approaches, I pray you’ll run (or wheel) like a little child toward Jesus’ transforming love, your families, your dreams, and better overall health. Go now; don’t wait.

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Thank you for praying big prayers for our family and specifically for Finn, for following our journey, and for being true friends. We are not perfect, but we are following hard after our perfect Savior, THANKFUL for His goodness and grace in our lives.

We are The Armstrongs. Roar.

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Pre-K

We sent him off to his teacher’s bench early Tuesday morning. It was his first full day of Pre-K, the first of many days of public school.

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This day was one I feared since the NICU, watching Finn’s tiny pink lips breathe in and out, closed around his feeding tube.

Sure, he’s been in daycare since infancy, but this was different somehow. I was sending my heart off between two wheels, trusting the world to treat him fairly, give him a chance, open doors, be kind.

He popped a wheelie, yelled, “Wahoo!” when he saw cute little Mrs. Brown, and zoomed off.

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I turned around, my eyes stinging with tears. Then Paisley almost ran off the curb into a line of cars and I forgot to cry. A busy day at work kept my mind distracted.

He won’t really tell us anything about his days…nothing true, anyway. He said he played in the dirt all day and that his new friend’s name was Booty. πŸ˜‰ Mrs. Brown tells me he always asks when nap time is and even fell asleep sitting upright in his chair.

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Thank you, Jesus, for Mrs. Brown.

He’s adjusting well and is excited to go to school each morning, a blessing for sure.

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When asked by kids in his class why he’s in a wheelchair and “what’s wrong with him,” Mrs. Brown says he responds that “his legs aren’t very strong and he uses his wheelchair to move.” I’ve never heard him respond to anyone about his disability before; probably because we answer for him. This is pretty close to what we’d say, except I don’t want him to believe he isn’t strong…just stronger in some ways than others.

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I’m so proud of you, Finn. You are teaching us all that it’s okay to be different. And what’s more, that it’s okay to LIKE being different! Your joy humbles me. You don’t make excuses for the things you “can’t do;” you simply find a way. I am so grateful for the confidence God gives you.

Here’s to 14 years of childhood education–Whew, that sounds daunting!–a rich education mentally, physically, socially and spiritually.

Will you pray with us for one or two really good, loyal friends for Finn? Friends that would see his differences as a blessing, not a burden. We all need a couple friends like that, don’t we?