Vulnerability 101


I suffer from perfectionism…

I want everything to be perfect, and I tend to have a preconceived notion of how things should play out. After my divorce was over, I made it my sole purpose to do everything on my own, to control as many uncomfortable situations as possible, and to help others (via personal training) along the way.

One MAJOR KEY that I forgot was that there’s no such thing as perfection, and it’s ok to ask for help. I’ve gotten so busy helping others that I never truly embrace time to help myself. As I preach how important the mental component is over the physical component, if not the most important, I forget to listen to how powerful my own words are and as a result have been neglecting that aspect–I always want people to think I’m “ok”, that they don’t have to worry about me, and can focus on themselves.

Everybody has a story, and this is mine… Right here, right now, and it’s subject to change– because that’s how evolution works. My story is mine, and it’s ok to change, to re-create, to re-write pages, to delete, to edit, and leave blank spaces.

Over the last couple of months I’ve been struggling; with life. The way it plays out, the way it doesn’t and this overwhelming sense of disconnect.

We’re living in a world were it’s seemingly so easy to “connect” to others yet we find ourselves (as least I do) lacking true connection that’s not from a handheld device, sent via text, and that isn’t the life we portray on social media.

Recently, I haven’t known how to put my feelings on paper, or how to articulate how I’m feeling, so I’ve hit the pause button, and by pausing, I’ve realized that it’s ok to to say “I need a break.”

Quite frankly, I’m burned the f*ck out!

When I made the commitment to myself that I’d always be “ok” it seemed fair, something I could manage (most of the time) and a new coping mechanism that I was willing to take on… not knowing if it was right or wrong.

Throughout the past couple of months, I’ve had a lot of personal family things happen. My step-dad being diagnosed with terminal cancer a little over a year ago, I’ve recently had to watch as he was admitted to the hospital for a month long procedure that made him weaker than a baby in hopes of him getting stronger, forcing him to immediately became co-depent. I’ve witnessed my mother try to take on the huge burden of becoming caretaker to someone that is ultimately supposed to be taking care of her. I’ve watched her struggle, and listen to her tell me “it’s going to be ok”, when in fact it may not be.

I’ve been struggling A LOT with keeping, balancing, and contributing to deep, meaningful relationships with people in real life while also being “ok” — I’ve had a hard time asking for help, asking for friends when I need them, and being there for others on a daily basis as I attempt to fill the shoes for them, that I struggle to fill myself.

I’ve been working on forgiving myself for having this need to constantly strive for perfection when I know damn well that doesn’t exist.

I’ve had the mentality of being able to do it all on my own; be successful, financially independent, not have people worry about my overall wellbeing, and perceive me as “killing the game.”

While at times that’s 100% who I am, I am not that person 100% of the time.

I have made the difficult decision to cut people out of my life that I thought were there for the lang haul simply because they weren’t feeding my soul the way they once did, and because it was the right thing for me to do, despite it not feeling that way. Throughout these past couple of months, I’ve been able to forgive others as I work on forgiving myself for all that I’m not, and everything they are.

But, the most valuable thing I’ve learned throughout these times of being confused AF, is that it is more than ok to ask for help. It’s ok to continuously reinvent yourself, it’s ok to not always be able to see the whole picture, but rather parts of it. I’ve learned that it’s ok to share your real story, the one that doesn’t quite make sense, the one where you’re struggling– because today, here in the now, that’s the story and there’s not sugar coating it. No, it’s not the story forever, but it is for right now, and whatever it is, whatever page you’re on, chapter, or sequel, it’s not the finale.

Life is too short to focus on how people perceive you, and your image all of the time. I’m human, and so are you…no matter what you’re going through, allow yourself to go through it and don’t be afraid of wherever it is you are, and wherever it may take you. Just know that it won’t last forever, there’s no such thing as that either.



The True Investment of Hiring a Personal Trainer

DSC_4398 copyPersonal training often gets a bad wrap. It’s either too expensive (a luxury that only few can afford), and often times considered an unnecessary tool to help you get in shape. While personal training is an investment to your overall health and well being, it’s much, much more than the initial price tag.

I’ll admit that when I first got into personal training I did it mostly for aesthetics, to see how capable I was of transforming the way people looked.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been active. I was a classically trained ballerina, played field hockey, lacrosse, and ran track. My Dad ran the Metropolitan YMCA’s while my Mother raised us, and taught group exercise. Fitness, and living a healthy lifestyle has always flowed through my veins. It’s something that I’m truly grateful for, but also something that I had to take time to figure out on my own. You see, fitness is defined as a noun; the capability of the body distributing inhaled oxygen to muscle tissue during increased physical effort. While that definition is great, it’s not enough, it doesn’t do it justice, and in my opinion fitness should be a verb. It’s an act, it’s the way you do something, a state, and the interaction between two things. The interaction that I try to create between my client and myself is not one that is merely built on sweat equity. It’s about trust, transformation, and a more defined sense of self.

Personal training will undoubtedly provide you with results, but the results will only come if you’re willing to change the interior first. Although that concept sounds somewhat backwards you have to want other aspects in you life to change, in order to see your body change. If you stop and think for a moment about how many things you’re doing throughout the day, how many different hats you have to wear, and how many things that take from you- it’s probably quite overwhelming. Now think, if you had one hour to solely focus on yourself, your goals, and your needs, without any sort of outside influence (no cell phones, no emails to respond to, no kids to pick up, husbands to answer to, and no where that you had to be) how much more you could actually achieve. Although the number on the scale, calories burned, inches lost, and confidence gained plays a major role in the relationship between personal trainer and client, that’s only the beginning.

By forming this sort of relationship that has to have an immense level of trust, not only with the body but with the mind as well, you begin to shift. You as an individual, begin to create clarity within yourself, and by creating clarity you create power…often times power that you didn’t know existed. You begin to make less excuses for why you look the way you do, and begin to implement necessary changes to look the way you want to feel – this is the important stuff; not allowing yourself to get caught up in the way you think you should look, but rather focusing on the way you want to feel, because when you lose 10, 20, 30+ pounds you’ll look differently, but if you don’t feel differently, what was the point?

I’ve trained my body for years-physically, but now I train to endure the emotional aspects of change, to withstand what may be, and evolve into what’s next. I can only recommend you incorporate those reasons into your training regimen, because once you’ve got that part down, seeing the way you view your body will be like night and day.

Yes, personal training is an investment but the return is priceless.



Why Hiring a Personal Trainer Isn’t Enough


When chatting with a potential client I always ask them “Why are you interested in hiring a personal trainer?” Their answers tend to vary but the most common responses come down to; getting in shape for an upcoming event, accountability, regaining strength that was lost due to a previous injury, and losing weight.

While those are all great responses I want people to dig a little bit deeper. Hiring a personal trainer is a great way to keep yourself motivated and on track to reach your goals…but it isn’t enough. 

My philosophy has been, and will always be that in order to see real change you have to begin from the inside out. On average I see my clients 2-3 times per week. That’s only 2-3 hours out of the week leaving 165-166 hours remaining. In short; that’s a lot of freaking time that has the potential to be unaccounted for.

Now that 2015 is here and in full swing I try to make it a point to chat with my clients about their short term and long term goals once again, and once again their overall goal is to lose weight. Today I had a conversation with a client. She wanted to know how to set realistic goals that were achievable and wouldn’t leave her purely focused on the number on the scale. I paused for a moment, as we’ve been trained to calculate success purely based on how much weight we’ve lost or gained.

This is when we started to dig…

That number on the scale is a great baseline, it can tell you a lot of things, but also fail’s to teach you things. We as a whole, and as a collective fitness family need to stop putting so much value in the number on the scale. Instead we need to put in some work outside of the gym. After chatting with my client for a few minutes we came up with a game plan. We started by setting up short term goals, and a way to implement them every single day. The first thing we discussed was incorporating some form of extracurricular activity; meaning some form of physical fitness outside of seeing me. Whether that be yoga, taking a friends dog for a walk, or grabbing friends for a nice long hike.

Although that may not seem like a lot, we must train our minds (just like we do our bodies) to get into a routine. Unfortunately things don’t change overnight, so the baby steps that we may think are really, really small and ineffective are the actually setting us up to be able to jump leaps and bounds without going backwards.

As a personal trainer I’m here to motivate, but my main goal is to educate people on how to really achieve their goals in the healthiest ways possible. Hiring a trainer will undoubtedly put you on the fast track to success but what you do outside of the gym holds a lot more weight than we tend to give credit for.

It doesn’t matter if you want to walk up the steps without feeling breathless, train for a marathon, or just look great in a bikini. The real training starts from within. It’s much, much more than getting in a killer workout we must change our mindset.

Live it. Breathe it. Be it.


I survived


Growing up I always associated running with that dreaded one mile run as part of the standardized fitness tests. Quite frankly I hated it and would do everything I could to get out of it. With that said, I’ve never considered myself a runner – until I moved to Philadelphia in 2009. Sandy Torchia, a partner at KPMG, suggested that I join her for a 6AM run before work. I was hesitant at first but I did it and I found it to be an extremely rewarding experience. Not only was I networking and building a strong relationship with her and other coworkers but I was in phenomenal shape. I went from hating running to loving running. Completing 5Ks to Half Marathons. During the Philadelphia Half Marathon in November 2011 I was going for a personal record and felt amazing until around mile ten when I was suddenly experiencing excruciating hip pain. I somehow finished the race but could barely walk. After several weeks and numerous visits to the doctor’s office, a sports medicine doctor finally diagnosed my injury as a stress fracture in my femoral neck which required emergency surgery to insert three pins in my hip.
After about four months of physical therapy I was finally back to running and starting to feel good until May 17, 2012 when I suffered yet another personal and health related blow. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 29. On top of that devastating news, approximately 12 hours early, my boyfriend who I thought was the “one” broke up with me. My entire world fell apart in a blink of an eye. I felt alone, angry, depressed, and confused. There were days where I couldn’t get out of bed and didn’t eat. I was suddenly faced with decisions that I never in a million years thought that I would need to make such as mastectomy vs. lumpectomy and fertility preservation. I relied on my family and friends to help me get through each day as well as alternative treatments that promote healing such as acupuncture, meditation, and reiki. I also found that running helped me to deal with my illness both mentally and physically. After about a dozen surgeries, 8 rounds of chemotherapy, and 30 days of radiation I am ecstatic to report that I am cancer free.


Throughout this life altering experience I realized how fragile life is. I was determined to live each day with no regrets. I went back to work after about an 8 month leave of absence and continued traveling around the country and the world – eating and drinking whatever I pleased. After about six months, I recognized that not feeling good about myself from continuing to struggle with the mental and physical effects of cancer but also from not regularly running. I decided I needed to not only live each day to the fullest but also get back in shape and take the right steps to regaining my self-confidence. I knew based on my hip injury and the physical impact that the surgeries had on my range of motion and overall strength that running alone wasn’t the answer so I enrolled the help of Jayel Lewis at Philly Phitness.
While I may not be back at my optimal level of fitness, I am working towards my goal through a combination of running, personal training, and yoga. I know that with each workout, I am taking a step towards healing the mental, physical, and emotional wounds and limitations. Throughout the past two years there were times when I wanted to give up, but I just kept reminding myself that I am strong, I am beautiful, and I will be healthy.

Submitted By: Ashley Smyk

Pushing Limits


I always thought that working out was only to lose weight. I remember going into the gym and thinking, why are all these skinny girls working out? I battled all my life with my weight, wanting to be skinny and thinking that was the only way to look and feel good. And the battle has not ended, I’ve never been able to be “skinny,” and I’m still trying to “lose the weight.” I’ve always been a big exerciser, from sports to fitness classes, gyms, to bootcamps, and so on. I always had trainers, and not the ” I just want to be toned” kind, but the flipping tires, kettle bell, kick your a** kind. I was motivated, but could never get lost in a workout. I never felt pretty, skinny, or perfect enough. I felt like after two hard workouts I should be skinny. I wasn’t getting the immediate reward I expected. My self confidence just kept getting worse…. I had times where I wanted to give up, and thought, “whats the point anymore, I’m not getting skinny.” About a year ago, I went through some rough times, I was laid off, broken hearted, and unmotivated. I went from working out everyday, weekends (which I never did), eating healthy, to a sad, pizza eating, sleeping beauty. I had lost myself, but I thought if I kept working out I would finally get skinny and feel good. Little did I realize how important staying active was, although I didn’t know why…until now.



A friend of mine suggested I go to Philly Phitness and meet Jayel Lewis. The past 18 years of working out, I never even knew my own strength. I was scared to work hard, and push. I let my head get to me almost every single workout. Only focusing on the scale I never even knew what I was capable of.

There aren’t enough words to explain how this inspiring, understanding, friend (and my trainer) changed my life. I let go of all my fear and doubt in myself. I didn’t have enough energy to work out, and be in my brain at the same time. I had to let something go….and so, I forgot about the scale and let the emotion out. I utilized the hour to just breathe and focus, and my experience with fitness did a 180. I felt alive again. I felt capable. I felt like I was really strong, for a girl! To me, there’s nothing more fulfilling than feeling HAPPY, strong and capable, and fitness allows me to feel that. I love training like a beast. I love sweating. I also love complaining about it, I know, its’ annoying. Sometimes I think if I had been molded and trained at a young age, I could have gone into fitness as a career. I’ve learned that its not about the scale. It’s not about being skinny. It’s not about how long it takes. It’s not about the mountains you have to climb. It’s about being proud to record your workout, and to post it! It’s about feeling able and alive. Its about climbing the mountains and reaching the other side, no matter how many times it takes. It’s about getting up if you fall. Its knowing that a healthy inside starts from a healthy outside. It’s about really pushing your limits, because you never know how strong you are… until you come out on the other side. But I’ll tell you one thing, THIS body is capable flipping big boy tires, lifting 150 lbs, learning to love itself, and not giving up. I may not look how I want, but feeling happy and worthy, I’ll take over anything, anyday.


I don’t believe it, I KNOW it; fitness SAVED MY LIFE. What changed my life was my outlook on it…and for the person that helped get me here, I’ll be forever indebted to. And most importantly, through fitness, came a beautiful friendship that got me out of the rabbit hole I was in. So thank you, fitness, for keeping me alive, I’m sure this won’t be the last time!



Submitted By: Emily Goodman