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Learning to Be A Bad Mamma Jamma

2 May


I stood there, on the rubberized floor mat, trying to ignore the sweat that threatened to drip down my brow. Dripping sweat is so not hot. My shirt proclaimed, “Pretty Fast isn’t Good Enough.” It’s part of my ‘fake it ’till you make it’ series of shirts. (Also in the series, “Born to Run.” Because I’m not, really, but I want to be and I love the song.) But it wasn’t living up to its motivational job that day.

I watched as Trainer Kenny scanned the available weights and picked out each for my new regimen of strength training. 12.5, 15, 20 pounds…he picked up each, looked at me, and picked up the next weight higher. My eyes bugged out the further right he went. Surely he doesn’t expect me to pick up that?!?

Trainer Kenny picked up the 30 pound barbel like it was nothing. “We’re going to learn a new exercise today: Deadlifts!” He said cheerfully, as he let the weight go with an audible *thunk* on the bouncy floorboards. What now? Whada huh? Are they called that because they killed the last person you tried this on? These were the thoughts racing through my head as I looked at the dead-weight laying at my feet. Lift this? I have a hard time carrying more than one gallon of milk into the house, and you want me to lift that? You’re kidding, right?

He wasn’t.

So I lifted it. And other weights as I went through the series of exercises Trainer Kenny had come up with for me to make me feel like a bad a$$. I was lifting weights, and I was a bad mamma-jamma.

Since I took up with Trainer Kenny and his wacky (read: non-lazy) philosophy of working out, I’ve done things I didn’t believe I could do. Nothing crazy, but I’ve gone from a girl who was afraid to push herself to a woman determined, motivated, empowered to explore the reaches of her strength. To not just take the 15 reps if I feel I can do 20. To ask to do a full plank until I collapse. It’s strange. It’s the opposite of comfortable. But it’s worth it.

It’s not always fun, but it’s always rewarding.I learned something this week. I’m capable of more than I think. Unlike most of my life where I’m happy to take on a challenge, push myself beyond what is comfortable, when it comes to physical fitness I’ve shied away from pushing myself. I’ve chosen ignorance over health, weakness over achievement. And I deserve better.

I am so grateful for Kenny’s expertise. He thinks I can do more than I can, and therefore I do. I am so used to being self-motivated, self-driven, self-actualized, but sometimes – when I’m out of my depth – I need someone to believe I can do more than I think I can and push me. My eyes bugged out as he pulled bigger and bigger weights for my rowers, my chalice squats, my…I don’t even know what they’re called, but they were hard! I did more than I thought I could this week, and I felt more powerful pushing through and owning the modicum of strength I’ve achieved in that last two months. Weights have so often been the exclusive domain of the big, the built, the manly; if an athletic girl (never mind an overweight, big, curvy and fabulous girl) dared to infringe on their sacred ground, they were greeted with scorn, derision, condemnation; I know, I’ve seen it. So I’ve never gone there. But with Kenny by my side, I was going to try. And I rocked it, 31 BMI and all.

The takeaway? I can do more than I thought I could. You can do more than you could. Maybe, like me, you needed someone to tell you, someone to believe in you, believe that you could do it. You can. I can. We can. We are more than our lazy-butt couch-sitting selves want to think we are. If you can’t believe in yourself, get someone wh believes in you to push you. Untill you believe it yourself. Because you can do it.

You can lift a weight the size of your head. And rock it.

Team Aylesworth Tackles a 10k

2 Apr

“Honey? Did you ever think when we got married that we’d be voluntarily getting up ridiculously early on a Sunday morning to take on an athletic challenge together?”


Yesterday A and I ran in the Santa Cruz Half Marathon/10k. Even though it’s tax season. Even though A’s made it to the gym only a couple of times this month. Even though I haven’t done any significant distance running since October. And it was great. Just enough of a challenge to push us past our comfort zone, and I have to say, I’m super proud of Team Aylesworth.

before - all optimism and smiles.

after - gorgeous day to run, and still smiling!

This was A’s first race ever. The most he’s ever run at once was five miles, and that was while I was training last year. I told him I was sure he’d be able to pull it out. When he hits the gym he usually does 2-4 miles, so I figured six would be a good stretch. Since he hasn’t been working out as often as usual, and I haven’t put in the straight miles of running lately, we decided to do a run/walk split. A is a much stronger runner than I, but he did a pretty good job of not letting me fall too far behind. 🙂 I wanted to average under 15:30 per mile since it was a run/walk, not too speedy, but we wanted to keep it manageable. Not only did we average 15:15, but we stayed pretty darn consistent! Not bad for two newbies. at the last mile, the effects of my insomnia from the night before started to kick in. Even though my legs felt great and my energy was fine, I really wanted a nap. I’d planned to run the whole last mile, but told A to go on ahead without me. He did, and finished in 1:28:26, which is an automatic PR since it was his first. Then the big sweetie came back for me; I’d decided to say “screw it,” and run the last ten minutes of the race once I could see the finish line. We crossed the finish line together at my time of 1:34:30. This was better than my average at Nike last year, so PR for me too! When I got home I realized that what I’d thought was allergies was really the beginning of a pretty bad cold, so I’m even more proud of how we did, considering how crappy I feel today.

The course was gorgeous – sunny Santa Cruz at 54 degrees. It was windy, and the wind was blowing against us the whole way. Odd, I’d hoped we would have it at our backs going back, but no such luck. The waves were huge, and lots of people doing their usual Sunday morning runs with us. There was a good turnout, but it wasn’t so crowded that it took us more than a minute of two to pass the starting gate. The one thing I didn’t like was that they started letting cars back through the road really quickly I thought. We started having to dodge them at around mile four, and we were far from the end of the pack. Only the front-runners of the half had made it back by then, so I don’t even like to think how the middle of the pack/stragglers dealt with it. No bueno, Santa Cruz, no bueno.

All in all, it was awesome to do this with my husband. He never thought he could run until he saw non-athletic me training and figured that if I could do it, well….
It’s odd to have more experience doing something physical than he, quite a turn around from our usual lives, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was a bit of an ego boost to help him out as he’s starting to add mileage to his running shoes. We’ll be lacing up to start training for a half soon, and will be hitting the San Jose Muddy Buddy in September, just for kicks. Want to come?

How was your weekend? Do anything fun?

What A and I are Doing Today

1 Apr


How Tuesday: I Don’t Know Squat

20 Mar

from motivationintohabit on tumblr. this blog is awesome. click to check it out.

How perfect is this image? I found it after I wrote yesterday’s post, and was amazed at how well it fit. Anyway, on to the how to.

Apparently I’ve been doing squats all wrong.

My trainer took one look at my form and said, “Oh yeah. I can tell you run.”

“Really? How?” I asked.

“You’re quad-dominant.”


“When you squat your knees come pretty far in front of your feet, which means your quadriceps are doing most of the work. Because they’re stronger.”

Once he explained what quadriceps are, we were back on the same page. Now I’m doing squats leaning against a big inflated ball on the wall to keep my knees behind my feet and strengthen whatever muscles are along the back of my thighs. Trainer Kenny promises strengthening this muscle will keep my knees from popping out of place when I run. So I’m in. Plus, squats are a full-body exercise. If you do them correctly you engage your core and you work your arms while strengthening your legs. I hate them, they suck to do, but man, do they work. So here are the do’s and don’ts of doing a squat, according to Trainer Kenny.


  • Start with your feet a little wider than hip-width.
  • Slowly lower yourself down into a sitting position, aiming for a 90° angle in your knees at your lowest point.
  • Stick your butt out as you sink down, keeping your back straight and core engaged as you lean over. (I told Kenny this was very unladylike, and is still hard for me to come to grips with, mentally.)
  • Keep your knees even with your toes at your lowest point.
  • If your knees stick out too far, you might not be sticking your butt out far enough. Alternately, you can use an exercise ball propped against a wall and start with your feet further in front of you and roll yourself down like I do.
  • Slowly raise yourself back to a standing position.
  • Do a set of ten good squats, and add another set each day.
  • As an added option, raise your arms straight out in front of you at shoulder height as you lower yourself to add resistance training to your arm muscles.


  • No slouching or back rounding.
  • Don’t go further than a 90° angle. You risk knee injury if you do.
  • Don’t let your knees extend much over your toes. Again, knee injury can ensue.
  • No major angles on your feet. Your toes should be pointed more or less forward.

No one needs to see a picture of me doing a squat, so how about a nice drawing with the muscles you’ll be working highlighted instead?

from click for another great article on how to do squats correctly and how to add weights.

And in case you’re wondering what it looks like, here’s a squat using a ball.

image from

Am I the only one who has been doing squats incorrectly? Do you have any go-to moves for building strength?

Tales From a Non-Athlete Learning to Work It Out

19 Mar

image from motivationintohabit on tumblr

So I mentioned earlier that I joined a gym. It’s been two weeks to the day since I started actually attending and exercising. So far I have seven hour-long classes under my belt, two personal training sessions, and three on-my-own running days. (Before you ask, no, I don’t go every day. More like every other day. My gym has an awesome class list on Monday and Saturday where power yoga comes right after step class, so I get a twofer benefit by planning to stay for two hours.) I’ve had days where I leave the gym feeling like I could climb a mountain. I’ve had days where I call A on my way home crying in frustration. I’ve had days where I feel like I could go for a third hour, and days where I feel like my legs are filled with cement. (Usually the latter happens on days where I had more than a little to drink the night before. Funny, that.) Despite setting a ridiculous physical goal for myself last year and meeting it, I am not what anyone would call athletic. This has been especially true since I started fighting S.A.D. For the last three years a desk job and lack of activity has helped me grow to have an alarming body fat percentage and sixty pounds of excess weight to lose. Even more than putting goals to get healthy on The List, I’m very motivated to change my habits before I turn thirty and physical fitness becomes even harder to achieve. Not that it’s not possible – if Biggest Loser has taught me anything it’s that anything is possible no matter how old you are – just that it may be harder. As a lifelong non-athlete, I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned in my vast experience as a two-week-old hard-core gym goer.

Belonging to the same gym your friends do makes all the difference.
Three of my girlfriends belonged to my gym before I did. The first week I joined, my friend Dianne (my unofficial life-coach) texted me four times to see if I wanted to meet her at the gym. Even if she isn’t going, she regularly asks me if I am. Talk about motivation. I get to catch up with my friend Hanna at step class (and try to copy her killer moves), and Mandy and I make plans whenever her crazy work schedule allows her to meet up. Even if we’re not doing a class, we’ll often text each other to say we’re going and try to meet up. It’s fun, it definitely helps me in my goal to have Friends Without Food dates, and we’ve hung out after workouts a few times to have dinner or grab a smoothie and discuss life, books, or whatever. I know I’d go even if I was just me, but having them there is a super boost of motivation.

I’m so much more likely to go when my gym feels like a spa.
I’ve done the dingy, poorly air-conditioned gyms. I’ve done the cramped circuit training specialty gyms. Walking into a gym that feels airy, open, and clean is amazing. It really has an atmosphere that feels more like a spa that you happen to work out it. It smells clean instead of sweaty, and employees walk around every ten minutes making sure everything is wiped off, refreshed, and sanitized. Speaking of employees, I’ve dealt with many in my two weeks, and they are so far from the bored co-ed more interested in flirting with their co-worker than answering your question it’s not even funny. Everyone acts like it’s a singular pleasure to see you when you walk in, help you if you have a question, or tell you about new classes. It’s lovely.

To get sold-out on exercise, everyone must find their thing that they love to do.
For me, this is running and classes. I’m always fighting to turn off my mind, and there’s nothing like going for a run to reduce life down to something as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. This isn’t to say all kinds of running works for me. I hate running on a treadmill. I’ll do it (I melt in the rain, you know) but nothing makes me feel more free than watching scenery pass as I run by. As much as I like being alone with my thoughts on a run, I’m so much more motivated if I meet people for a run. That’s because I’m super social, and being around people motivates me. Which is why classes really work for me. I’m so blessed to have friends at my gym, but even knowing there’s a whole room of strangers meeting up to work out really works for me. I’m more and more convinced that everyone has something they can get into exercise-wise, if they only cared to find it.

I have no core.
At all. My trainer has been working with me to build core muscles and overall lean muscle to help support my running. I can do a wussy plank for 30 seconds before collapsing. But that’s fifteen more seconds than I could do the first time. My core is sore for days after we meet, but I’m becoming aware of muscles I didn’t know I had before. I have to build my core and lean muscle mass, because it will make me a stronger runner, better at yoga (also on The List), and (one day) make bearing a child easier.

It’s all mental.
The more I learn about my body, the more I realize that I am limited only by my own belief in myself. Working out with a trainer has really underlined the truth of that for me. My trainer tells me I can do something I haven’t done before, and I psych myself out before I get there. It reminds me of the first time I ran a whole mile. I was running with a TNT mentor, and I wanted to drop down to a walk after a few minutes. He kept urging me on, saying to try to keep it up for just a little longer. Until I hit a mile. Without realizing it. I kind of shut down a bit and decided to turn back, since that was the farthest I’d moved in a long time, much less ran. On my way back, I decided to keep running and see what I could do. I kept wanting to stop, and after almost giving in a few times I did a physical check on how my body was doing. Was I breathing hard? Yes, but it was a normal amount and manageable. Was my heart feeling stressed? No. Were my legs tired? Nope. Feet? Nuh-uh. Which left only one thing; I’d never run that far before, so my brain was reacting by sending signals along the lines of, “danger, danger, this in uncharted territory. You’ve never done this before, you’d better stop before something scary happens.” Only nothing scary was coming. After that, I’ve done my darndest to not self-sabotage just because I haven’t done something before. Which brings me to my next point…

I’ll try (almost) anything once.
Kick boxing, Yoga, Zumba, Boot Camp, Core Focus, Pilates, you name it, I want to take it. But, as I said earlier it’s important to know yourself. I have no interest in water aerobics or anything involving spinning. You have to be a very special kind of crazy person to enjoy strength training while perched on a hard, skinny bicycle seat.

If losing weight were easy, everyone would do it.
It’s hard, I’m not going to lie. Working out, especially with a trainer has made me face some uncomfortable realities about myself. I’ve never learned to work out, and I’ve not been a good steward of the body I’ve been blessed with. It’s like going to therapy. It’s not pleasant, it doesn’t feel great in the moment, but I go through it because, ultimately, being healthy worth it.

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