A Hard Core Workout Just For You

Every weekend, the resident personal trainer (and combat veteran) leads a boot camp. When he showed me the program of pain he hit his clients with today, I begged him to let me share it here.

Luckily for us, he’s a generous man.

So – if you’re in the mood for a hard core sweat, here you go! A little present from us to you. Pin it for those days when you can’t make it to the gym – you can do it all in the comfort of your own home!


(insert evil laugh *here*)


February Challenge Demos

I asked very nicely, and the resident trainer (AKA He-Man) agreed to demonstrate how to do the workouts for the February Challenge. Here they are! Hope they help!

We’re happy to answer any questions, so post here or on the Facebook page and we’ll be there to help you reach your goals.

Work it out!

February Fitness Challenge

: a definite and serious decision to do something

Roll call! Who is still committed to those Healthy & Strong resolutions they made this year?

By now all of that vim and vigor might be starting to wane. I mean… we’re in the middle of a Polar Vortex, here! How can we be expected to pull off anything beyond basic survival?

I hear ya.

But you know what? I’m not going to let you forget your Resolution! Not this time! THIS IS YOUR YEAR! If I can lose 100 lbs in a year, you can accomplish any resolution.

To help you stay on track, the resident trainer and I put together a February Challenge. You can follow along on the calendar below, or join us over at the Happy Exhaustion Facebook page where I will be posting daily workouts and providing support and encouragement to anyone who wants to participate.

This is your chance to recommit! Grab that resolution with both hands and do not give up. You can move mountains – but only if you do the work. Earn your strength. Make yourself proud. You deserve it.
Save it, Pin it, Sweat it out!

Save it, Pin it, Sweat it out!

A New Fitness Adventure to Start the Year Strong!

I think it’s time for a new challenge.

Starting tomorrow (January 2, 2014)  and ending on January 31st, I’ll be doing these three plans simultaneously.

The Plank Challenge.
If I can actually hold 5 minutes by the end, I will be declaring myself Master of the Universe.


The Abs & Squats Challenge. I'm loving the variety - should help to stave off soul-crushing boredom.

The Abs & Squats Challenge.
I’m loving the variety – should help to stave off soul-crushing boredom.

The Jump Rope Challenge. I'm doing this one because my husband gave me a fancy, big-girl jump rope for Christmas. I'm all about super-cheap cardio aids!

The Jump Rope Challenge.
I’m doing this one because my husband gave me a fancy, big-girl jump rope for Christmas. Ain’t nothing wrong with some super-cheap cardio aids!

Anyone want to join me in doing one, two, or all three? Come on, misery loves company!

Leave a comment or send me a message if you’re in and we can cheer each other on/moan and groan out loud in unison as we go.


Edit To Add: I’ve created a Happy Exhaustion page on Facebook where you can share this challenge with me. Come by and join us! www.Facebook.com/HappyExhaustion

push it HE


Do. Not. Quit!

I need to write this quickly. In a few hours I’ll be too sore to type.

But I just had to tell you – I am currently fighting my way through the hardest fitness challenge I’ve taken on since my first round of Insanity.

Over the summer, fearing that I was growing complacent about my fitness, I developed an itch for a new adventure. The resident trainer recommended that I try a TRX class. Are you familiar with the mayhem that is TRX suspension training? If not, check this out: TRX

First, I took a class that taught the basics of suspension training. It was hard! I was sore after every class, but I was able to rock it out.

So, when I completed the intro class, I decided to kick it up to the next level.

Oh. My. Dear. God.

There are no words for how hard this class is. Things like planks with reverse crunches with feet in suspension straps make it hard for me not to curse out loud.

Today was my third class, and it’s easily the hardest thing I do all week. Hands down.

After the first class felt like hell on wheels, I didn’t want to go back ever again. The second week rolled around and I begged my husband to give me an excuse not to go. No dice.

So, despite knowing that I was about to get my ass handed to me – I went back. And this week I went back again.

When I got home today, I was so drenched in sweat, my man asked if I had spilled my water down my shirt. I found this question (from a personal trainer! Who makes people sweat for a living!) so amusing, I thought a selfie was in order:



As I drove home from my weekly torture session, despite having had every ounce of effort wrung out of me, I felt effing GLORIOUS. I was so glad I didn’t cop out! It was so hard. It was so, so, so hard. But I did it. I knew it was going to push me to my outer limits, and I went anyway.

Here’s why I think this is blog-worthy: Doing the damn thing with my body is the greatest gift I can give my mind. And I don’t know about you, but I’ll take physical struggle over emotional struggle every. single. time.

For the last 2 Fridays, I’ve pulled back from following through. I’ve seriously considered letting myself off the hook. I’ve bathed in the seduction of spending that hour doing something – ANYTHING – else.

But, I put on my big girl panties instead. I did the damn thing. I made myself proud.

I spent a lot of years pinned under disappointment. I was so disappointed in myself for my persistent laziness, I became paralyzed by self-loathing.

I know if I don’t go to this drop-dead difficult class, I invite the darkness of disappointment back in. But, if I know it’s going to be hard and I grunt and sweat my way through it anyway? Then I feel proud.

The struggle of major physical exertion can buy confidence. So challenge yourself and DO NOT QUIT! You deserve the rush of success.

I hope you smile!

I hope you smile!

Avoiding Overdose

Fitness rocks.

Know what doesn’t rock? Even at all?  Pain.

Most exercise-related injuries occur when people push themselves harder than their bodies are ready to be pushed. When we’re ready to do the hard work, we often decide to dive in and give it 100%. That’s fantastic. But it’s smart to pay attention to the space between what we want from our bodies and what our bodies are actually able to give us.

When I decided to run a 5k, I trained for months to get myself ready. It was hard work, but little by little I got stronger and faster.

Well, after accomplishing my 5k goal, I dropped running like a hot potato. Some workouts make me happy to be alive. Running does not.

But one Saturday last month, I wasn’t in the mood to go to the gym and my dear husband was filling our home with the delicious smells of fresh baked goods. Running away seemed like a good idea. So, despite not having run a single mile in months, I decided to hit the mile track.

I aimed to run 5k in under 30 minutes, just like I did when I reached my goal months before.

Y’all – I almost died.

Ok, not really. But I almost gave myself heat stroke. For real.

First of all, I had NEVER tried running in the summer. I did all of my training in the cool air of spring. My lungs would occasionally burn from the cold, but my body temperature was always fine once I got going.

Turns out – summer running is a whole other thing.

I ran the first two miles without too much trouble, but I couldn’t understand why my pace was so much slower than I wanted it to be. I work out every day! I should be able to do this!

I was pushing as hard as I could, and it wasn’t working. Also, my knees were PISSED. They were not at all excited about the pounding.

Midway through the third mile, I had to stop. I *never* quit on a workout. Even if I can’t keep up with the people in my workout video, the people in my class, or the people beside me on the cardio machines, I never give up.

That day, I gave up. I had to. I was dizzy, losing vision, and feeling weak.

If I stand, I might fall.

If I stand, I might fall.

I was not in running condition. I was especially not in summer running condition. I had to sit in my car for a little while before I felt safe to drive. It was crazy.

When the heat issues passed, I realized how much my knees hurt. They continued to bother me for days to follow. No major injuries, but I had asked too much of them.

The Resident Trainer says he sees this kind of thing with clients all the time. Especially if the clients have a super-studly athletic past. Men who used to be Navy SEALs know what their bodies are ultimately capable of. They expect their bodies to be able to perform at high levels. But if they take a few years off and come back to the gym expecting to bang out SEAL workouts, they might hurt themselves. Badly.

If you’re just getting started, be mindful of easing yourself into your new lifestyle.

But if you’re like me and you are fit enough to expect a lot from yourself, don’t forget that you still have limitations.

Can I run a sub-30 5k again? Sure I can! Even in the summer! But can I do it now? As it turns out, I can’t.

Drive your body with your brain. But if your body throws up a Check Engine light, remember that there’s no shame in tapping the brakes.

The Law of Unintended Consequences

When I was considering posts for my ‘Debunktion Junction‘ series, I roughly drafted one about the (pretty uniquely feminine) fear that working out will cause you to bulk up.

Almost every woman who trains with my husband begins by stating that while she wants to get stronger, she does not want to get ‘big.’ She doesn’t want to get ripped, she just want to ‘tone up’.

This amusingly predictable hand-wringing causes a lot of eye-rolling in the personal trainer community.

Generally speaking, you won’t bulk up in the gym if that’s not your goal. Especially if you’re a woman. We’re just not programmed that way.

Trainers spend a lot of time talking women off the ledge. “Don’t worry, just because I’m going to have you working with weights doesn’t mean you’re going to Hulk Out.”

I was going to blog a request that women stop worrying about something that won’t happen unintentionally. But I pushed the pause button, because I don’t like to blog about things I haven’t personally experienced. I had never really worked with weights. I had no first-hand knowledge of what would happen.

Then I started working in the Boy Zone of the gym (see: Stranger In A Strange Land). I lifted weights every day. I was just improvising, using lifts I learned from Jillian Michaels in No More Trouble Zones. I was unsupervised, with no trainer on hand to recommend weights/reps.

Then, on the 4th of July I posted this picture on Facebook:

Sun's Out, Guns Out

Sun’s Out, Guns Out

I wasn’t expecting it, but I got a lot of positive feedback about the visible muscles in my arms. And you know me, I’m a sucker for compliments! Flattery will get you everywhere.

When I went out for lunch with my brother shortly thereafter, he said I have Michelle Obama arms. *swoon!*

Good thing I’ve been working so hard in the Boy Zone, huh? Rad.

So, I kept at it. I got my heart rate up higher lifting weights than I do spending an hour on my favorite cardio machine. I was building muscle left and right.

Well… then my husband took this picture:



Those arms are bigger than I wanted them to be. I mean… I look like I could kick someone’s ass! And, as I’ve said before – I’m in the girly-girl business. My ideal adjectives include “slender, willowy, sleek.”

“Holy crap, that chick has guns” is not my personal ideal.

I’m so glad that I didn’t post that you don’t get bigger than you want to!

My brain may have been saying “I don’t want to get any bigger” but my actions in the gym were the actions of a woman trying to build muscle. I had incorporated weight lifting into my daily routine.

What happens when you lift weights 6 days a week? Arm muscles. Kinda big ones.

I discussed the situation with the resident trainer. He reminded me that the more you lift, the bigger you get.

Mental note: No hand weights heavier than the 5 lbs I’m using now.

My man says if I don’t want as much muscle mass, I should try backing off a bit and only working out my arms a few times a week.

Less working out in pursuit of a personal ideal? A-W-E-S-O-M-E!

While it’s interesting to know what I look like when I have guns, I don’t really want to keep them. Don’t get me wrong – I love having strong arms, but the stay-at-home-mom game doesn’t really require lots of heavy lifting. My ability to do my job won’t be harmed if I surrender a bit of arm strength.

Can’t say I’ll be sad to see these biceps go.      #GunControl

Lifestyle Change

Go ahead - make friends.

Go ahead – make friends.

Within the community of formerly-obese fitness junkies, there is a common mantra. We tend to go around mumbling about ‘Lifestyle Change’ to anyone who will listen.

I’ve touched on this theme several times in passing, but it deserves its own discussion.

“Lifestyle Change” is code for ‘if you think you can only diet and exercise until you reach your goal, you’re going to gain it all back. The change has to stick… forever.’

We don’t want to scare you off, though. We reference “Lifestyle Change” to soften the blow.

But, what we have learned is this: No one who keeps significant weight off is ever able to return to their comfy-cozy, curled-up-all-day-eating-their-favorite-foods lives.

Know those Biggest Loser contestants who go back home and gain it all back? They didn’t get the memo on Lifestyle Change. They thought a quick fix was possible. I can’t blame them – I yo-yoed for years because I avoided the Lifestyle Change. Lifestyle Change felt way beyond me.

When I got started, I couldn’t even think about tackling forever. When I got started EVERYTHING felt hard, painful, and deserving of my constant animosity. The thought of enduring such torture for the rest of my days was WAY more than I was prepared for.

I didn’t want to be heavy anymore, and I knew something had to change. Beyond that, I couldn’t even process.

I was ready to consider a few months – maybe even a year – of hard work, but I didn’t think I had anything more than that in me. I certainly didn’t think I’d ever actually embrace the hard work that is fitness.

I still wanted to believe the infomercials. CHANGE YOUR LIFE IN 60 DAYS!!

If you’re where I was when I was thinking about getting started, if yo-yo dieting feels normal to you – then you’re the person I am talking to when I hint about the importance of a ‘lifestyle change’.

I don’t want to feed you propaganda about how quick and easy shedding obesity and adopting fitness can be. But I don’t want you to fear that such a change could mean biting off more than you can chew.

The benefits of Healthy & Strong far outweigh the comforts of sloth (oh, I do adore sloth… it’s easily my favorite deadly sin), but you need to feel them for yourself.

None of my sporty friends were ever able to convince me that I’d be happier if I got fit. I hated dieting, and I hated exercise. How could working things that I hate into my daily life POSSIBLY make me happier? Nonsense.

But, of course, they were right.

These days, if I wake up on the wrong side of the bed and the children have me wanting to tear my hair out before 8am, I know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. As much as I would never have believed it one short year ago, the light at the end of the tunnel lies on the other side of a good workout.

I know that if I work an hour of sweating into my day, I’ll be as right as rain on the other side.

I still find fitness to be hard work, but now I know that it’s worth every struggling minute. It’s worth the full-scale lifestyle change, because this lifestyle is happier, more confident, less stressed-the-eff-out.

Healthy & Strong had to become integral parts of my identity.

So, go ahead. Don’t be afraid. Change your whole identity.

It’s the stuff of superheroes.

Stranger In A Strange Land


I have a confession to make.

You know that part of the gym where they keep the weights? Where all those grunting men are pumping iron?

I think of it as The Boy Zone, and it intimidates the hell out of me.

You see, I have spent a lifetime gleefully cultivating my girly-girl femininity. I grew up emulating Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, and Brigitte Bardot. Today, I buy anything with Princess Kate on the cover. You get the idea.

I don’t know about your gym, but when you walk into mine, the gender division is pretty blatant. Almost all of the women are on cardio machines, while the weight training areas are Testosterone Central.

So, as a newcomer to the gym world, I kept myself in my girly lane. I only used the gym for cardio. I worked with weights when I got home and no one was watching.

It’s ridiculous, but I had myself convinced that being seen lifting weights would somehow diminish my femininity.

My silly little gender role snow globe was due for a good shake.

First, I actively considered venturing into Testosterone Central. When I did, I heard a small inner voice saying ‘that’s not for you – it’s not for girls.’

As soon as I heard that voice, my bigger, stronger, Mama Tiger voice kicked in and whooped that little voice’s ass.

Here’s why: TRY to tell my daughter that she can’t or shouldn’t do something because she’s a girl and the thing she wants to try is just for boys. Go ahead and try. I will rain down protective maternal fury that will scorch the earth, I swear.

My daughter can reach for any stars in the sky and nobody better come at her with any toxic cultural BS.

So why don’t I apply that same mentality to myself?? How can I model equality if I don’t walk the walk?

Come on, Mama Tiger – go lift weights!

Um… ok… yeah, that’s totally legit. I’ll get right on that. Just, um… not today. Today’s… busy… and stuff. I’ll be Power Woman tomorrow.

Tomorrow came, and it brought the final push that I needed.

I was back at the gym, back on my cardio machine, when a woman I know walked in. Our kids go to nursery school together. She lives in my ‘intimidatingly pretty’ mental category. There is no deficit of femininity in this woman.

Did she take a sharp right and jump on a cardio machine like a good girl? Hell no. This chick marched her ass right over to the Boy Zone and grabbed some metal. She did pull-ups! She worked with a barbell! I was floored.

I know I’m a terrible feminist for even admitting these things, but seeing a woman whose image was already set in my mind as a ‘pretty girl’ in that part of the gym was something I needed.

When I told her I was inspired, she said she just doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. She’s there to get strong, so that’s what she’s going to do.

Badass! I love it! I want to be like that!

So, last week I marched my ultra-femme behind right into the middle of it all. I did squat presses. I did deadlifts with hammer curls. I sweated and I pushed, and I got a damn good workout.

I exercised my body and I expanded my comfort zone. I killed another ‘can’t’, and it feels b-a-n-a-n-a-s.

Up next: Learning to deal with the gawking of pubescent boys. Can’t say I’m a fan of the attention that I attract as the woman doing squats in boy land.

Sidebar/Update: 3 weeks off of the scale! Not weighing myself seems to be kicking my workouts up to the next level. I am combining cardio and weight training every day. It’s driven by a fear of the unknown, but I’ll take it!


Breaking Up With Tracy

Dear Ms. Anderson,

May I call you Tracy?


Oh. Um… ok.


When I shelled out $100+ to order your Metamorphosis program, I was filled with vim and vigor. Your client list made my head spin. You train Gwyneth? And J.Lo? And Shakira? And Gisele?! OMG – you can show me how to work out like them?! That’s awesome! I’m so there! Let’s get started!!

The first 30 minutes of every workout is spent doing the same ‘dance’ routine? Which is mostly just constant bouncing? That’s… new. But, you’re the expert! Screamingly sore calves be damned! If Gwyneth can do it, I can do it!

The second half – the part that changes every ten days… that’s pretty… unique. I mean, clearly you’re applying a dance background, which is fine, but I feel a little silly flapping my arms like a demented bird of prey. No matter. I also felt silly doing power jumps, and by the end of Insanity I wanted to kiss Shaun T full on the mouth. So, flapping it is.

I have to admit, the ‘strategic muscle fatigue’ is a beast. Working the same muscle over and over and OVER again? Whoa. That’s intense. Sorry about the cursing. I’m sure Gwyneth doesn’t curse.

I marched dutifully to the pink and white calendar and checked off each successfully completed workout, one by one.

But I have to admit – it didn’t take long for me to begin to dread my daily workout. Midway through the second 10-day block I had to really psych myself up to push play.

This might sound odd, but I need to have good chemistry with my remote trainers.

Despite Insanity being drop-dead difficult, I kicked my own ass all the way through every single prescribed workout because I was so inspired and encouraged by Shaun T. His enthusiasm, energy and encouragement as he yelled at me to DIG DEEPER! kept me going. At the beginning of each workout, Shaun T’s voice yells “Come on, y’all! Let’s GO!!” I developed a fully Pavlovian response. I’d hear my encouragement to get started, and I would get an surge of ‘here we go!’ energy. He may not know it, but Shaun T and I have amazing chemistry.

Then there’s my girl, Jillian Anderson. She’s one tough chick, but she inspires me. She explains why she’s making you do painful things, which somehow makes the painful things a bit easier to take. She acknowledges that her workouts are hard, that ‘tough’ is who she is. But, she tells you that you can do it, and explains how it really will make you stronger. I might not think we’d ever be besties, but Jillian and I have good chemistry, too.

Your workouts are tough, but they’re a lot less physically intimidating than Insanity and no more intimidating than my favorite Jillian Michaels video (Shout-out to No More Trouble Zones! It rocks my socks). Yet I pulled back from your Method harder than I ever pulled back from Shaun T or Jillian.

I was hoping to be inspired by you, Ms. Anderson. Instead, the lack of inspiration is dragging me down in a big way.

I have to confess – I began referring to you among friends as ‘The FemBot’.

I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be hurtful. I’m sure you’re a wonderful friend, wife and mother. It’s just that in your professional capacity you remind me of all the intimidating mean girls from high school and college, the ones who just couldn’t understand why anyone would ever struggle with the things that came easily to them. Wanting to look like you and your clients isn’t enough motivation to get me through 90 days of feeling like my remote trainer is disappointed in me. I mean, let’s face it. Warmth and encouragement aren’t exactly your strong suits.

Your ‘do it because I say so’ approach turned me all the way off. Also, no verbal cues to go from one exercise to the next? Pass. When I’m working hard, I will probably look away from the tv to focus. I could use a reminder when it’s time to switch.

Do you know how psychotic it feels when you don’t want to do your workout because it feels like your trainer is being mean? And that trainer has never even seen your face? It’s one step from a padded room.

The nail in the coffin of Happy Exhaustion’s adventure with the Tracy Anderson Method came from the man who never steers me wrong. As I bounced and cursed, the resident fitness trainer just shook his head. “Whenever you want to give this ish up, I’ll support that” he said.

“But it must be working!” I protested. “It hurts like HELL!”

“Yes,” he said “but I can fatigue your finger until it hurts like hell, too. Just bend and flex it a few hundred times and it’ll be screaming. That doesn’t mean it’s a good workout.”

I’m sorry, Ms. Anderson. In the name of my (entirely vital) enthusiasm for my personal fitness, I have to break up with you. I’m sorry. It’s not your fault.

There’s just no chemistry.

– Katey

PS: Now accepting recommendations for the next fitness adventure!