Exercise, Education and Your Emotional Health

For the past 14 years, I have had the privilege of working with women at all ages and stages of life. I like to refer to these chicks as “Healthy Babes.Any Age.Any Stage.™” – women who are working to achieve balance in life so that they are physically, emotionally and socially on top of their game. I mean, really, when our physical, emotional and social states are in harmony, life is usually feelin’ pretty good. Yet, it seems that in this game of Life, finding balance in and amongst those three components is a challenge.

I have long told my clients and class participants that one of the greatest gifts they can give the loved one’s in their lives is themselves – Fit. Healthy. Strong. physically, emotionally, and socially. It is possibly my favorite soapbox to stand on because I have witnessed and experienced the impact of the imbalance-to-balance ratio. Just one small shift or stressor in one area can have an adverse affect on one or the other two! Then, for many, add parenting to that equation and, well, I don’t know about you but I found things got imbalanced pretty quickly.

While the notion of helping women become the Health(iest) Babes they can be is not just for parents (I personally pride myself on having been a super-awesome aunt before I was a mom), this blog is inspired by a particular aspect of parenting that I and many of my clients and friends seem to be constantly having to manage, maneuver and respond too: our child(ren)’s education.

While my husband and I planned to have children, we did not stress about their education prior to their existence. Hadn’t even kept up on the issues the City of Chicago has with its’ Educational system. Yet others I know had their desired neighborhoods and schools prioritized before conception or adoption. Now, I’m pretty “to each their own” here and don’t have any F.O.M.O. issues in this area – and thank God for that because just looking at my children and desiring more (better?) for them has been enough!

From as early as preschool to now, waiting on the fates of determination (having gotten on the CPS Selective Enrollment Crazy Train) I have been fascinated by the ways and means that parents, mother’s in particular, are so engrossed in our children’s education. The steps we will take, the things we will sacrifice and, quite frankly, the burdens we will put upon ourselves (and likely our children) is CRAY.ZAY. And when that crazy hits a peak or worse, a seemingly long-term tension-filled span of our life, you can bet your thesaurus all three states of our physical, emotional and social wellbeing get compromised. For me, my personal fitness routine either helps me manage the stress but sometimes, the stress is so much that taking care of myself takes a backseat…bye, bye, exercise!

Most recently, stress from managing the educational needs of our daughters was the result of transferring from an international private school to our (outstanding) neighborhood CPS school…our oldest daughter entering in the critical 7th grade year. Without getting in the minutia of that insanity in this blog, let’s just say I could have joined the circus with my specialty being spinning multiple plates on poles and my husband perfecting his juggling (he’d already been workin’ on that tho’…😉).

Now this is where things got kinda interesting for me. Turns out, in the 14 years of training, teaching and/or networking with all these cool chicks, I have myself in this amazing network of women with whom I have been able to reach out to on behalf of myself, my friends and/or clients as we work our way through this thing called Life. A sort of “Women’s Wisdom, Tried and True. Local to You.™” that I have informally been collaborating with over the years and has evolved into a community of sorts.

One of those women is the lovely, Heath Leneau Bragg. Mother, daughter, former client, friend and – wait for it…Learning Specialist! So check it out, ’cause this is really how this whole “Healthy Babes” thing has organically grown. Client Andrea hires me/YGG!F to train her during her pregnancy, then refers one of her BFF’s, Heather, to YGG!F to train during her pregnancy and voilà! – we are connected. With YGG!F, Personal Training being almost exclusively By Referral; most of my clients are already pretty selective about who they send my way but I still screen pretty well for fit.

How does this all relate to one’s physical wellbeing? Well, while neither of my daughters has a learning disability, there are definite areas of struggle that were compounded, most recently, by transferring to CPS and trying to make sure our oldest child successfully traveresed “perfect” grades, MAP Testing and, finally, the High School Admissions exam. You can probably imagine the stress, tension and anxiety that filled my home, taking their toll on the emotional, physical and social aspects of our lives. Trying to provide support without adding more pressure…and that’s where my community of Healthy Babes comes in, with Heather Leneau Bragg as the first woman I am highlighting to share her wisdom.

We’d stayed connected, I had my own auto-graphed copy of her book, “Learning Decoded” and she was my go-to for guidance in clearing the cobwebs of learning styles, adolescence and empowering my daughter through an overall hellacious process. For my husband and me, we could finally BREATHE…and chillout a bit – seeing our daughter rise to the occasion with greater ease and comfort under Heather’s tutelage. Over the years, I have found that I have been able to assist clients and/or their friends by being a trusted resource for a variety of issues that women are facing based on the community of women I’ve come to know; often sharing the wisdom of women that have traversed those same issues before us. Being that trusted resource has been so cool to experience that I am providing that service in a more organized manner!

So, if your home (or that of someone you know and love) is stressed by or filled with angst as a result of the pressures of making sure your child is getting their educational needs met, please join me and Heather Leneau Bragg on Thursday, March 10th, 2016, 6:30p-8:30p @ Sweet Peas Studio, 3717 N. Ravenswood, as she discusses “Learning Decoded: Understanding and Using Your Child’s Unique Learning Style to Improve Academic Performance” (and I’ll add: keep you calm in the process). Registration is required. Cost: $30/pp, $55/per couple.

My Sedentary Summer…

It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted – mainly because I had to feel more optimistic about the outcome of this post…

Anyway, you know that saying, “People plan and God laughs.”? Well, I’m pretty sure He was bent over in FULL guffaw, whilst hands on His own knees so as not to fall over at my paltry attempt to “make the most” of my midwestern summer.

Many a Chicago runner eagerly await the first and then final signs that Spring/Summer is/are here. We buy new shoes, fresh workout wear, dig the sport sunglasses out, relish Daylight Savings, maybe download a new “track my route”-type app or get a new GPS. Yet, the real inner-mojo comes from plotting those runs: Fartleks, sprints, two-a-days (my personal favorate), easy-pace and, of course, reconnecting with our running group (for those of us that bailed in the cold and dark that is Jan-April!).

Just go on ahead and throw me right into that category. My return to the outdoors, with goals of speed, time alone, breaking in new shoes, and rediscovering my City on foot is also greatly anticipated by my family as well. Every Spring brings about the usual questions from my daughters: “How far are you running today?”, “Did you see anybody you know?”, “Did you see any deer yet?”, “Can I ride my bike along with you? I promise NOT to talk the WHOLE time.” My own exuberance replies with, “5!”, “Yes!”, “No!”, “Sure!” – for it is EARRRRRRRLY in the season so my runner’s high exists even before I’ve hit the pavement. Even the hubby is excited that, once again, if I am crabby and stressed, he can banish me to the outdoors – assured I will return still relishing the solitude…

You can, then, imagine my shock and panic when you take a look at what my plan was vs my reality. Quite simply, “The Plan”, was to begin a two-a-day run program starting in June to increase my per-mile-pace (a nice alternative to my loathing speed intervals, Fartlek’s, etc to accomplish the same goal). Having done this the past 4 years, I know that by August I would be down to about an 8:17/mile. That is fast for me and looks a l’il like this:


What actually happened was:

  • June 1 – Achilles tendonitis appears outta nowhere
  • June 2-17 – No running; visit to sports med Dr.; cross training both indoor and outdoor cycling; 2x/wk physical therapy; being a “good girl”.
  • June 18-23 – vaycay with power walks in lieu of usual running
  • June 24 – hubby and I go with the SIL to “Adults Only”-night at a roller rink and I break my wrist 38 minutes in; trip to ER w/discharge referral for trauma surgeon to set the wrist (dominant hand) PERFECTLY.

2015-06-26 11.07.05

  • July 1 – 2nd surgery; cast, 4 pins (no plate or incision!) to be removed 8 weeks later
  • July 2 – fly home alone w/daughters
  • July 7 – meet local orthopedic surgeon;
  • July 7 – Parting words from ortho doc after asking if there was anything I couldn’t do: “Yes. No sweating.”, Husband reply, “Dude, you’re killin’ me. She’s gotta workout – or it’s gonna be bad for me.”, ortho doc reply, “If she gets an infection, it’s gonna be bad for me.” My reply: silently crying…

After the shock and awe factors wore off me and people dared to ask what I was most afraid of, I said, “Total body atrophy.”

The “Bottom” Line: YGG!F Pelvicore® Foundations Workshop

Well, the “bottom” line on this one is: dysfunction of the pelvic floor can happen to “Healthy Babes. Any Age. Any Stage.”™ Be it a young female athlete, a new mom, a recreational athlete, or a grandmother – life happens and somewhere in there stress incontinence may cause one to experience embarassment (in the least) to pain (at the worst). The point YGG!F® wants to “stress” is that while this may be common – it most certainly is NOT normal!

Understanding the synergistic relationship between our abdominal muscles and pelvic floor is a first step in addressing (be it prevention or intervention) the problem. Remember: You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge – and if nothing changes…nothing changes.

This past summer, I had the privelege of attending several workshops and seminars taught by Christina M. Christie, PT, CCE, FAFS, FMR and President of Pelvic Solutions, LLC., using the PelvicorePro® ball. The evolution of training the Pelvic Core Neuromuscular System (PCNS) functionally throught 3-Dimensional movement in which function can be both improved and restored taps right into my “geek factor”. Just last week, I had further opportunity to experience several exercise program approaches using the Pelvicore® with two distinct populations – women ranging in age from early 30s-60s and a co-ed Senior Chair Fitness class (yes – pelvic floor dysfunction does not discriminate!).

Not sure if you’re experiencing Pelvic Core Dysfunction? Here are some simple questions to help you determine if you are:

  • Do you urinate more than 4x’s during the day?
  • Do you get up at night to go to the bathroom? If yes, how many times?
  • Do you ever have accidental leakage of urine during activities such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, running, exercising, or lifting?
  • Do you do a lot of “just in case” toileting? (this is a particularly interesting question is you are potty-training girls!)
  • Do you have trouble controlling gas?
  • Have you ever lost bowel control?
  • If you are sexually active, do you have pain during or after intercourse?
  • Do You have pain before, during, or after urination or bowel movements?

If you answered “yes” to one or more of the above questions, you may be experiencing dysfunction of the pelvic core. While I could go on, I’d much rather you come learn and experience for yourself! In 2015, You Grow Girl! Fitness® will begin offering a series of Pelvicore® based workshops and classes for “Heatlhy Babes. Any Age. Any Stage.™”. For our first workshop, YGG!F® is pleased to partner with Christina M Christie, PT, CCE, FAFS, FMR, in offering a workshop and class for pregnant and post-partum women.

  • What? “YGG!F® Pelvicore® Foundations
  • When? Saturday, February 7, 2015
  • What Time? 9am to 12pm.
  • Where? Meredy Parker/Physical Therapy & Sweet Pea Studio – 3717 N. Ravenswood, Chicago
  • How much? $50 (includes class using the PelvicorePro®)

Contact Jen Dixon at: jen@yougrowgirlfitness.com for more information or to Register!


YGG!F Partners for First Fitness Retreat!

I am thrilled to announce that You Grow Girl! Fitness® is partnering with 365fitt in offering a Healthy Active Living Trip! In January 2015, we will welcome women of all ages and stages to Captiva Island, FL for the opportunity to engage in a healthy, physically active retreat.

A wonderful program that will allow you to participate in physical activities you enjoy and expand your fitness regime with new experiences. Two outstanding chefs, an on-site massage therapist, and beautiful surroundings for you to take some time for yourself.

Check out the YGG!F “Services” page for more information and to register! Check out the luxurious accommodations below!

Growing Pains: Fitting F.I.T.T. In

It’s that time of year again when we’re trying to “Fall Back Into Fitness” and figure out when and where we’re going to get our “fit on” and, if you have children, trying to coordinate school around their many extra-curricular activities…

As grown-ups, it can be quite the challenge trying to figure our new fall schedules and how we will balance work-life responsibilities. New travel schedules, new meetings, boredom of previous activities, inclimate weather as the seasons change – I could go on and on about the various barriers I hear when working with clients on trying to figure out how they are “Fitting F.I.T.T. In”. I actually consider knocking down those barriers and inspiring folks to begin planning and preparing for how participation in a regular exercise program is going to happen to be one of the best parts my job.

So this fall, YGG!F® will be hosting 2 workshops covering this very topic! I will be sending out communication regarding the dates and times so if you think I don’t already have your e-mail, contact me to make sure I add you to the list!

Then, when you add children to the mix, you realize the above challenges are not the only ones you face. As a parent, it can be hard not only to figure out your child’s extra-curricular schedule, it can also be hard to let some things go. In my house, we are struggling with lack of interest, the parental notion of “not appreciating your talents/abilities”, desires to try something new, conflicting/competing schedules, etc.

Knowing when to “make” your child stay with an activity or when it is time to say ok, we’re done, is hard. What is the balance between keeping commitments/staying the course and sucking the love out of an activity because the interest/passion has waned? It’s times like this I often ask my “mommy and daddy” because I feel like I got to do what I love, satisfy my curiosity about others activities, and definitely was “made” to stay with others over the course of my younger years.

As an adult, I can easily list those things I wish my parents had made me keep doing and those to which they heard me say, “I don’t want to do this anymore” and it was done. Well, I put a call in to my mommy, and she said, “Oh gosh, I don’t know. We had four kids ya’know (I did/do…). I guess we felt like playing a sport got you exercise, and that was important. Then, grandma was a piano teacher and I had to take lessons and I think we believed that playing an instrument created a greater appreciation for music.” When I asked her why I or my siblings were allowed to stop, the answers were less clear with musings on new rules (no friends could be on the same team at one point) or we didn’t feel we could compete at the level of making a team. With a 9 year age different between my oldest brother and my younger sister, I think they just got tired… 😉