When I think about what Inspiring Vitality means, these two concepts rise to the top:
Boom meaning "Did I just hit the nail on the head with these two phrases?"
Longevity: living a longer and healthier life. This is THE goal of my work and something we are all striving for but...it doesn't just happen. It's harder for some than for others. There are competing priorities in life and temptations all around that take us off track for the habits that will lead to longevity. Some of us are always just shy of getting our act together to reap the benefits of healthy choices.
How can we get closer to that goal? Perhaps it's by focusing on something that can also be a goal of itself:
Intentional Living: Taking the time and focus to make choices day by day that are aligned with our goals, rather than continually living on autopilot or by old, unintentional habits while yet ANOTHER month, year, or decade passes by.
The further I get into this decade of life (my 50s) and the more I see my children age up to become young adults and the older adults in my life die or succumb to dementia and other ailments, the more urgency I feel to make the most of the time I have on this earth. That includes staying as healthy as I can but it also includes taking that trip, having that dinner party, and making those phone calls to my loved ones every darn day! Can you relate? How many times have you asked time to SLOW DOWN...please!?
While I can't make time slow down, I can be more INTENTIONAL with how I spend it. And the more intentional I get with how I spend my time, the more at peace I am WITH the passage of time. Of course it's not easy, and that's why building GRIT has been a skill I've been honing over the past year.
If this resonates with you, I'd love for you to check out my brand new offering: BOOM: Intentional Living and Longevity. I am opening the doors for founding members! Please join me!
Even though I have exercised regularly my entire adult life, I was not a fan of yoga until a few years ago. I had taken one yoga class many years ago and after a full hour of soothing music and slow movements, I wanted to…jump out of the window! Quite literally, I didn’t have the patience for it. Additionally, as a practicing Catholic, I was unsure how or if I could reconcile the spiritual principles of Yoga with Christianity. There were questions to ponder but I didn’t think I “needed” it anyway. It was just stretching, right? I usually focused most of my exercise efforts on cardiovascular and strength training and could get my stretching needs met with just a few key stretches.
Fast forward to a few years ago and as different aches and pains occasionally cropped up, I knew that more stretching would be helpful on a regular basis. A physical therapist friend suggested I try yoga so I decided to see what I could find online. To my great pleasure, I found that there was a whole world of yoga that did not involve going to a studio for a one-hour class. There were yoga recordings of every length and an endless array of focus areas. I found a 20-minute beginner series that looked appealing. I knew I could handle the soft music and soothing voice for 20 minutes and decided to commit to it daily for a few weeks to see what would happen. Well, in those two weeks, I got hooked and have been exploring and growing in Yoga ever since. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned:
Update - I have since mastered headstand in the grass! You can watch it here! :-)
Most of us have a goal or two that seem kind of wistful. Year in and year out, we can’t or don’t quite stick to the plan that will lead to success in…losing weight, paying off debt, or [fill in the blank]. There are also some of us who can’t stay away from the goodies in the snack cabinet.
Grit can help. Mental toughness can help. I love that grit is defined as passion and perseverance for long term goals. You need both because perseverance with no passion is no fun and passion without perseverance leads nowhere.
This past January, my weight was up from the holidays and my on-off habit of stress snacking was decidedly in the “on” position. I was single-handedly chipping away at a bag of Nestle semisweet morsels that were purchased strictly for baking, ha-ha. It was about that time that I was invited to join a group of women doing the 75-Hard Challenge, created by Andy Frisella. Have you heard of it? I thought “everyone” had heard of it, but realized that assumption came from traveling in fitness circles and 75-Hard is well known among fitness enthusiasts.
The premise of the challenge is to do five things daily without fail for 75 days:
If you miss even one item, even partially, on any given day, you must start again on day one. Yikes! You can’t even cheat a little bit? A whole gallon of water? Ninety minutes of exercise every single day? What about moderation? What about listening to your body? Despite knowing about the challenge for years, I was never a fan because as a fitness professional I considered it excessive, unnecessary, and potentially dangerous for some people. Most of all, I worried what would happen to participants on day 76. I now see that I was being a know-it-all fitness industry snob. Certainly, it’s not right for everyone, but as it turns out, 75-Hard was not created as a fitness challenge, but rather as an exercise in building mental grit.
Hmm. I could use more grit, that’s for sure, and I needed a little help getting out of my stress snacking cycle this time around. I knew that the camaraderie and accountability of doing something with a group would be an added benefit but my pride was on the fence. I was used to leading fitness challenges, not being a participant. I had to keep reminding myself it wasn't a fitness challenge and decided it was high time to get more humble, be more open-minded, and see what I could learn from it. And learn I did!
Sticking to the eating and exercise requirements were huge grit-builders for me. They were both similar to what I was already doing but the "absolutes" part annoyed me. I am generally a very disciplined person for things that I'VE decided are important. What about developing grit when I'm NOT in charge? I could use a little work in that area!
I was already typically working out 90+ minutes most days, but I now needed to ensure 45 minutes of it was outside every day and to never have a day off or fall short of the 90-minute total. I was not in charge of my own workouts! I had to just follow orders. Humbling and grit-building for sure. I was nervous because it was winter! Thankfully, it was fairly mild. Turns out that bundling up works. Who knew?! I underestimated the value of being outdoors DAILY. Fresh air is addictive! Sunshine boosts our mood. I began to crave my outdoor time. My workouts include strength training, elliptical, or yoga indoors, and either brisk walking or hiking outdoors. I knew my feet were going to need some breaks so for the outdoor portion, if my joints needed a break from walking/hiking, I did yoga outside. The scheduling required to get these workouts done no matter what made me build laser focus, resolve, and planning for 75 days straight.
THE EATING PLAN:
This was the most transformative portion of the challenge for me. I didn't change my normal professed and preferred way of eating, I just finally stuck to it without fail every darn day! For me, this is a high protein Mediterranean diet with no processed foods, and I used this period to fine tune the calories and macros that would keep me feeling full and also get me back to my preferred weight. When my weight is up, my joints don't feel great and I feel less agile. I also know that when my sweet tooth hits, once I have some kind of treat, it usually leads to more and I have a hard time getting back on track. The rules specifying not to include even a morsel of food "off plan" actually worked great for me. I put it out of my mind as a non-negotiable and found that the absence of sugar meant no more cravings. My energy level went through the roof and my mood was consistently happier. Weird, huh? You’d think I would be grumpy from no treats, but it was the exact opposite. Research backs this up! Ultra processed foods change our gut bacteria linked to mood, increasing anxiety and depression. We have better mental health days when we cut out the processed foods. And the stress snacking? It turns out that processed foods are formulated to actually change our brain chemistry and be addictive. It makes sense that 75 days without any processed foods changed my brain chemistry to eliminate the addictive cycle!
At the end of the 75 days, I felt triumphant over my own cravings, I felt proud of myself for maintaining focus on every item every day. I was down 18 pounds, my clothes fit better and in order to do it all, I had to get up earlier every day so I started going to bed earlier, which also helped my energy level and mood.
TAKE HOME MESSAGES:
Seventy-five days is a long enough time to build and sustain new habits, and literally change my brain chemistry and my gut bacteria. Wow. Those goals were not even on my radar but I am so grateful. I don’t look at food the same way anymore. I now allow myself some treats, but I’m smarter to mostly avoid the ones that I know are addictive for me. It’s just not worth getting back into that cycle and I now know that my mood is better without chocolate than with it. And if I'm going to eat it, to use smart strategies to keep it reasonable. More on that another time! My workout schedule is back to including rest days but I do still try to exercise outdoors on most days to keep the sunshine factor working!
I'll also amend my professional advice to GO FOR IT if you are generally in good health, as long as you adjust the content and intensity of the exercise for your body since there are no off days, and most importantly that you plan well for day 76! The biggest risk of an overly stringent period is the rebound effect afterwards. Use the program as a springboard to morph it into what you can sustain!
I hope this was helpful to you! Need help? Reach out! I'm here to cheer for you on your own journey!
Visiting with my mom yesterday, I was reflecting on the fact that she’s one of the most joy-filled people I know. People living with Alzheimer’s disease are no different than other older adults in many respects. Mom led a rich life with many talents, hobbies, strengths, and weaknesses that make her unique. She raised five children with love and strictness at the same time. She was a soloist at church and always called herself a tomboy. She loved to play sports of all kinds and she never missed a chance to make someone feel good. Today, she still loves to sing, shoot a basketball, play ping pong, and say “You’re awesome!” and “Way to go!” to those around her. Now that she is living in a Memory Care community, she regularly says those phrases to her care partners and neighbors, whether it’s during dinner or a game of balloon volleyball. She has said the phrase “You’re awesome!” so frequently through the years to her children and grandchildren that one of my nephews has it tattooed on his inner arm in her handwriting.
Mom also practices gratitude and has an attitude of flexibility. You will often hear her punctuate anything good with the phrase “Thank you, Jesus”. Routine and consistency is very helpful for those living with dementia and thankfully, her current setting provides that for her, however, whenever there are unavoidable changes, she is quick to say “We just have to roll with it!”
When visiting, it’s fun to watch her as I walk down the hallway and wait for the moment when she sees me coming. Her eyes light up and she is filled with joy and recognition. She is quick to (re)introduce me to everyone and…tell them how awesome I am! I know that her joyful and nurturing spirit has a positive impact on her community.
Living with dementia can include much joy and a great capacity to give and receive love. My husband has a theory that our core personality characteristics often intensify as we age. Just as with younger adults, everyone’s different – some are crabby, some are shy, some are adventurous, some are bossy, and some are smiley, etc. Mom is joyful and stands ready to brighten the day of those around her with encouraging words.
How about you? What are the character traits that most describe you today? Are these traits that you hope intensify as you age? What characteristics do you want your children and grandchildren to use to describe you in the future? Maybe there are words, phrases, or traditions that you want to use more intentionally going forward to reinforce the character traits you most want to intensify as you age.
It’s not easy trying to be our best selves! If you need to hear this today, let me tell you that YOU’RE AWESOME!
Despite having a business with the name “Inspiring Vitality”, last summer I would have given myself a solid C- in personal vitality. All of 2021 went by in a blur for my siblings and I as we juggled eldercare responsibilities for our parents with our own jobs and children. My mom was living with Alzheimer’s with my dad as her primary care partner, about four years in from the day she called to tell me she discovered a “great new pizza place” that was, in fact, our well-loved Grotto Pizza that was walking distance from their beach house in South Bethany, Delaware.
My sibling and I were rotating daily visits to help Dad and also to give them both what they wanted most at this point in their lives – time with us, their children – a gift to us all, really. My dad had his own health issues. He was in year eight with an LVAD (left ventricular assistive device) that was supposed to keep his heart going for seven years, so 2021 also brought emergency room visits and hospital stays for my dad with some siblings at the hospital and others rotating staying overnight with mom. It was overwhelming at times but it also brought us closer, especially to Dad, who for most of our lives had left all the coordinating and communicating to Mom.
In January 2022, Dad’s heart finally gave out and after he passed, Mom moved in with my family, making 2021 look like a cakewalk. My siblings rotated in to help and we found a wonderful caregiver who came to our home part-time, but it was not sustainable. Six months into that arrangement is when my vitality score sunk to a C-. I was still exercising. I drank my water. I kept going with existing clients and speaking gigs on top of my full-time job. I did (not enough) writing and social media. I was trying to do everything I always did plus manage my mom’s care. “How do you do it all?” was the most common “compliment” I received and let’s just call it what it was - hubris, plain and simple. I had worked in senior living; I was a certified dementia care practitioner, and a fitness expert. I literally wrote a book on maintaining vitality as you age. Surely, I could find the right mix. But, I was exhausted. I had spurts of stress eating and anxiety. My brain felt jumbled. My weight crept up and I developed new aches and pains.
I absolutely still believe that healthy habits give you energy for the stresses of life, but even that has limits. In the summer of 2022, it became clear that things had to come off my list for my own wellbeing. I stopped writing. I closed my online women’s fitness club. I had speaking gigs booked but I stopped reaching out for new ones. I mostly stopped posting on social media. I stopped doing anything that felt like pressure and instead focused on things that brought curiosity or joy. I went to bed earlier. I started each day with a prayer ritual. I spent less time on the computer. We found a fantastic Memory Care community for Mom. My husband and I traveled to South Africa and visited our adult children in San Diego and Texas. I did the 75-hard Challenge, even though as a fitness professional I had poo-pooed it in the past. I became the student instead of the teacher in more advanced yoga and weight training principles that excited me. I used weekend hiking dates with a friend to put myself in nature weekly. One of my brothers and I took over the beach house. I lost over 30 pounds that most people didn’t realize I was carrying.
This summer, my vitality score is an A+. My energy is through the roof and my positive mindset is back. My joint pains are 90% better. I’m both wiser and more humble. I’ve had a year of adventure and new skills and life lessons. I’ve mastered headstands and set a goal to compete in bodybuilding in 2024. I’m writing again and recording videos. My creativity has been refreshed and I’m energized to share new observations with clients and expand new business offerings. In short, what a difference a year can make!
Have you had a time when have you needed to take a step back to move forward? A phase of life that required humility and a new navigation strategy? Or perhaps something you were an expert in professionally but discovered that dealing with it personally was a whole different thing? My recommendation? Hit pause. Reassess and not just on the surface. Let curiosity and joy be your guide for a while, making your world smaller as an investment in getting bigger again later. If this resonates with you, I’d love to hear your story!
I really want to know! Take a listen and then jot some things down. This important question can help you start envisioning your future and what it will take to get you there!
Research tells us that up to 70% of our aging experience is due to lifestyle choices. And...it's never too early or too late to make some changes that will positively influence our aging experience! What are you going to do to help ensure your future healthy self?
Need some help figuring out the habits that will work best into your life? Check out my custom coaching program and let's chat and see if coaching is right for you!
May is one of my favorite months of the year! Flowers are in bloom and the weather gives us so much to look forward to with the summer to come!
Spring is also a great time for FITNESS! Many of us are itching to do more when summer clothes are on the horizon. I have the perfect opportunity for you!
The Forever Fit Club hosts a Monday 5:00 pm ET 30-minute strength class every week. The content varies but there's always fun and companionship! The gals and I have decided to open up the Monday 5:00 pm strength class on May 16 to guests! It will be an "All Glutes" class. There will be plenty of variety and modifications available for different levels and best of all, it's a chance to meet other women who are also trying to fit in a little fitness into their busy lives. Won't you join us?
Register here and you'll receive the zoom link. Feel free to forward this invitation to your friends as well. I'll look forward to seeing you!
I used to come home starving and my go-to snack was peanut butter on a spoon. And let’s be honest here – I usually went back for a second spoonful. I didn’t want to admit how many calories I was downing in the first 15 minutes I was home. The PB led to a bite of this and a handful of that and the scale was creeping up because of this and other habits that kept me in “reactive” mode for hunger.
Tracking my food helped somewhat except I didn’t have an overall plan for the day, so I was re-calculating how much I had left (calories, macros, etc.) all day based on my choices. Temptation was my constant friend.
I “knew” meal prepping for the week would help me save time but I had no idea that it would also be a game-changer for my fixing my impulse eating!
I took the calories and macros that fit my goals and planned out a menu that I enjoy and then I got busy. Some Sundays I get it ALL ready for Monday thru Friday. Other weeks, I prep one or two components for the week on Sunday, do another on Monday, and another on Tuesday. The first few days of the week have some parts ready and for others I may be playing catch up. But it is way better than none at all!
Gone are the afternoon snack attacks because I already have my snack decided and prepped.
Gone is the decision fatigue of what to have that will fit my calories/macros.
Gone is the roller coaster of my blood sugar and moods!
I LOVE my meal prep lifestyle! What do you think? Could meal-prepping be a strategy that works for you?
I have begun taking a limited number of clients for my new 12-Week BOOM Forever Fit Custom Coaching Program. Who is this program designed for? It's perfect if you want personalized, one-on-one support to figure out once and for all the eating and exercise habits that are right for you and sustainable for the long-term to reach your goals. Book a call with me if you'd like to discuss!
One pound at a time…down 20+ pounds and still going!
I am so proud of my client, Donna. She was patient and steady and allowed small changes to snowball over time for phenomenal results! Make no mistake - Donna had things crop up over the months like we all do – a problem with her shoulder one month, a knee acting up another, a job and family to take care of, and so on. She always did what she could and KEPT GOING!
Donna has been part of the Forever Fit Club for over one year! Here’s how she describes her journey so far:
“I was overweight, had no energy, and ate what I wanted, including a lot of carbs and chocolate. After working with Cathy I am more conscious of what I eat . I started tracking my meals on a fitness app, doing more cardio and weight training, and regularly attend Cathy’s weekly group coaching calls. The support of the group helps keep my mind set on track.”
Cathy here again. Can you picture what you could be feeling like if you started a few small changes TODAY? There is NO TIME like the present! Why not join me on April 10 for my free masterclass “Countdown to Summer: The Forever Fit 3-Step Success Plan”. You, too, can follow Donna’s great example!
As the spring weather approaches, many of us have goals to amp up our fitness efforts in preparation for summer. April 10 is approximately 50 days until Memorial Day and it's the perfect time to get re-committed and re-charged! I hope you'll join me on that Sunday afternoon for "Countdown to Summer: The Forever Fit 3-Step Success Plan!"
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Inspiring Vitality Today
Your catalyst for intentional living and longevity.
It's never too early or too late to make small changes that can have a big impact; why not start TODAY?