What is trauma-informed personal training?
A history of trauma can mean many different things. It can be an acute event, like a car accident, that shows up in a history of injury and pain in a specific part of the body. Or it can mean a history of child abuse, that shows up in deep shame that emerges whenever a person tries to do core strengthening exercises. Sometimes the most simple movement can trigger a surge of intense emotion that seems to have no words, no language, no story, and no sense as to why it is there.
It’s all ok.
I am honored to provide a safe container for whatever comes up. This is an opportunity to heal. When we meet our stuck pain from the past with openness and curiosity, and without judgement, then it can move through us, as it was meant to. In its wake it leaves us stronger, more compassionate, and more open to life than ever before.
This is not trauma therapy and I am not a therapist. I provide a safe and supportive space for people to reconnect with their bodies. Each client is unique, with their own history, needs, and goals. I individualize each person’s workout program to help them meet those goals. I prescribe exercises around what they need to get there, while also factoring in the unique challenges a history of trauma can present.
To do this, I draw on my academic education, professional training, and personal experience in healing from trauma, addiction, and eating disorder. I strive to provide each client the tailored exercise program and positive experience they need in order to tap into their own inner strength to heal and live their fullest life possible.
In a society that profits from your insecurity, self-love is a rebellious act.
I was told early on when launching my private personal training business that I should post “Before / After” pictures because “everyone loves a weight loss success story.”
But that’s not my story. Mine might be more of a weight gain success story. Or even more accurately, a self-hate/love story.
Over the course of my entire life, my weight has fluctuated about 20 pounds. Which on my small frame (4’10”) is kinda a lot, but in the grand scheme of things, not really.
My lowest weight was 108 lbs. I hit that weight first when I was addicted to meth, and again when I was actively anorexic. (I tried to find pictures of those days but couldn't).
My second lowest weight is in the picture above – 110lbs. I was actively bulimic and alcoholic. Shortly after that picture was taken, I would go to my doctor for a routine checkup and she would tell me my liver enzymes were elevated and I need to stop drinking. I was only 28 years old.
But I looked great, didn’t I?
The irony is that higher our levels of dissatisfaction with our body image, the less likely we are to lose weight, if that is our goal.
The irony is that the higher our levels of self-compassion, the more mentally and physically healthy we are likely to be.
I spent 15 years of my life trying to become thin. I thought being thin would make me happy. I told myself, “If I was thinner, I could be more confident, and if I was more confident, then I could do better in life.” I told myself, “I was thin, I wouldn’t be so depressed, and if I wasn’t so depressed, I would have more friends and people would like me more.”
I told myself a lot of things. But mostly what I told myself was, “I hate that I’m so fat and ugly and if only I could be pretty & thin, everything would be ok.”
I drank to numb myself from my own self-hatred. I would starve and run and do sit-ups until I wanted to cry and then I would feel so terrible, all I could do was eat cake until I threw up, and then, for just a few moments, I wouldn’t feel anything at all because I was so numb from the self-abuse that I just couldn’t feel anything anymore.
I got a lot of compliments and attention when I was thinner. I was never the girl that guys would hit on, but when I weighed less, it would happen occasionally. When I was heavier, it never happened at all. My friends would say, “Wow, you’ve lost weight! You look great!” We’d go shopping for clothes at consignment stores and it would feel so good to fit into a size 2 or 4 or 6 or whatever it was. It felt like I was actually somebody.
But the reality was, I was dying. Slowly. From the inside out. If the bulimia wasn’t going to kill me, the drinking would. Women have smaller livers than men so we often start seeing physical health effects at younger ages. That was definitely that case for me.
It took a lot: I went to therapy, I went to 12-Step meetings, I went to SMART Recovery, I tried yoga, I took psychiatric medications, I went to acupuncture, I worked with a naturopath. I did all the things. Not because I wanted to, not because I was wealthy and could afford to, but because I didn’t really have any other choice. It just hurt too much to keep doing what I was doing, and I was so desperate, I would do anything to feel better.
There were many turning points, and one came when a friend organized a trip to climb Mt. St. Helens and invited me to join. For the first time in my life, exercise wasn’t about losing weight and looking good. It was about getting strong enough to do something incredible. And because I was part of a group, it wasn’t just about me anymore. Those things made a big difference.
Summitting Mt. St. Helens for the first time felt so good! I had never been somewhere so strange and beautiful – like walking on the moon. And the fact that I had worked so hard to get there made the success all the more sweet – unlike anything I have ever experienced in my life before.
I started hiking regularly after that. It wasn’t even exercise at that point – it was a healing experience to be in the woods, on the trail, among the trees and ferns and silence. Just me, my body, and the quiet. I couldn’t throw up my food because I needed the calories to keep going. I couldn’t drink because if I was hungover, I wouldn’t go hiking the next day. And I didn’t want to drink on the trail because… well, I didn’t need to. I wasn’t unhappy in the woods, and I didn’t need a beer to make the experience better. It was enough, exactly it was. I was enough, exactly as I was.
It still took a long, long time to get sober. I quit bulimia first, somewhere around 2011 or 2012. I quit drinking for the last time in 2013.
When I first stopped throwing up and starving, my weight hit an all-time high of 128 lbs. That didn’t last long. I seem to have stabilized around 120 lbs. Sometimes I’m a bit more, sometimes a bit less.
The charts say I’m overweight for my height. And that’s ok. My body says I’m fine, and I’d rather listen to her. It’s taken a long time to establish a relationship of love and trust with myself and with my body. I’ve spent most of my life hating myself. When I’m the only person who has ever actively tried to kill me, it becomes a really big deal to say, “It’s ok to trust me now” and actually believe it. It’s taken a lot of time, patience, and commitment.
Would I be a faster runner or more efficient climber if I lost five pounds? Ya, probably. But is it worth losing my serenity? Absolutely not.
These days I eat intuitively. I eat when I’m hungry. I stop when I’m full. Some days I eat a lot. Some days I don’t eat much at all. And anytime I try exerting control over that, it doesn’t feel good. So I don’t do it.
I’m not saying losing weight is bad and we should never want to lose weight. I’m not saying we should never want to get strong or in shape or any of those things.
What I’m saying is that real happiness, real health is actually an inside job. It’s not about how much you weigh or how fast you can run or how many mountains you climb or what size pants you fit into or what kind of pants you can afford.
It’s about knowing you are enough, exactly as you are.
It’s about accepting your weight, regardless of the number.
It’s about running at your own pace, even if it’s slower than everyone else.
It’s about being still with the all the imperfections of you, feeling the joy of getting to experience this life, in this body, with all the mess and pain and laughter that comes with it.
 Austin, J. L., Serier, K. N., Sarafin, R. E., & Smith, J. E. (2017). Body dissatisfaction predicts poor behavioral weight loss treatment adherence in overweight mexican american women. Body Image, 23, 155-161. doi:http://dx.doi.org.proxy.lib.pdx.edu/10.1016/j.bodyim.2017.08.002
 Bea, A. W. (2018). Evaluating the role of self-compassion as a mediator of weight-related stress, body dissatisfaction, and health (Order No. AAI10606964). Available from PsycINFO. (1992037583; 2017-54455-238). Retrieved from http://stats.lib.pdx.edu/proxy.php?url=http://search.proquest.com.proxy.lib.pdx.edu/docview/1992037583?accountid=13265
I'm too tired.
I don't have time.
I'll start tomorrow...
It's easy to prioritize things over exercise. Like, any thing. I get it. You're busy. You're tired. Exercise is hard.
AND... what could be more important than your health? Is one hour worth having more energy? Is one hour worth feeling less stress? Is one hour worth the self-confidence you get from knowing you did something valuable for you?
You are worth the investment in yourself. The rewards we reap from exercise are infinitely greater than the time we put in.
Fitness builds a foundation that enables us to live our best lives. Start living your best life today and invest in yourself by taking one hour - heck, even one minute is better than nothing - and move.
Like, right now. Seriously.
Stand up. Move your body.
Take one minute. Breath. Move your arms and legs. Wiggle your toes and your fingers. Notice how your body feels.
I bet it feels good, right? A bit of a relief?
Your body was meant to move. Your mind will thank you for the increased blood flow and oxygen.
You are worth the time and energy it takes to exercise. To build a strong foundation of fitness from which you can meet the rest of your life as your best self.
Let's get started today.
As we bring attention and movement to our body, we release stuck energy. I can't tell you how many times I have cried during an ab workout. There was a lot of shame harbored in my belly. Shame for being "fat", not being good enough, attractive enough, for not being what society told me I should be. Allowing the grief to arise and giving myself the space to cry enabled me to release those emotions. And as I did, I got stronger.
A strong core is the foundation for your body's movements. It is the central focal point of attachment from which your limbs move. When the core is weak, the arms and legs lack stability. This is often how injury can result.
A strong core is especially vital for people with a small torso and long limbs. This is because they have a smaller base from which to stabilize their long levers (arms and legs).
All my life I have been plagued with knee and low back pain. Much of this centered on having a weak core and an unwillingness to address this weakness. Given the amount of emotion harbored in my belly, it makes sense that I would avoid training this area of my body, and instead try to compensate with the over-use of my hip flexors and low back muscles.
This is a common pattern in many people: there is pain in the body and we don't want to face it because, well... it hurts! As humans, we want to avoid pain and pursue pleasure. This is ok. There is no shame nor judgment. This is instinctive and adaptive.
And yet, in order to grow, we do need to go through the discomfort. They don't call it "growing pains" for nothing.
I believe in providing a safe and supportive atmosphere for my clients to face their discomfort and move through pain when it comes up. On the other side of pain is phenomenal strength and freedom.
As I have moved through my challenges, I have gained enormous strength to do and achieve things I have never thought possible. I can run now without pain or injury. I can rock climb and mountaineer - something I didn't even know I *wanted* to do until I tried it. I have a strong foundation from which I am free to explore and try new things and an inner sense of confidence that tells me I can handle whatever challenges might come my way.
The same is possible for you.
Wellness comes in all shapes and sizes! I tend to not focus on weight loss as a primary goal with my clients. This is because weight is usually not the primary challenge people are facing. I have found that focusing on body acceptance and self-love to be far more effective in creating lasting, positive change in a person's health. Yes, often weight loss is a result of making positive changes, but it is actually more of a side-effect from an increase in self-acceptance.
Why self-acceptance? How can we accept the unacceptable?
Because we can't change something without first accepting that it is how it is. We must first acknowledge our current circumstances - without judgement - before we can take effective action to change them.
Accepting ourselves, as we are, fully and without judgment, is not always an easy task. It can start with realizing that we are so much more than the number on the scale or our pant size.
My primary goal for all my clients is optimal wellness: this means how we feel in our bodies and about ourselves as a whole. Are we living our best lives? Are we driven by stress and shame, convinced that we must do more in order to be good enough?
Or do we feel good in our own skin? Can we smile at ourselves in the mirror? Do we find joy in our daily lives, confident in our abilities to meet whatever the day may bring?
Wellness means celebrating our bodies and ourselves, exactly as they are, in this moment, right now. There are so many positive things about *every* body - let's start acknowledging those things now. And as we do, it becomes easier to create even more positive changes in our lives, for ourselves. Not because we need to change to be good enough, but because we love ourselves so much that we see how capable we really are and feel inspired to show that to the world and to ourselves.
Exercise is medicine. Repeated studies have shown that regular exercise reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and obesity. It also reduces stress, anxiety, and depression.
People who exercise regularly see an improvement in their confidence, mood, overall energy, and of course, improved physical strength and endurance.
Our bodies were meant to move! We were not designed to be sedentary beings. Exercise doesn't have to be a chore, something we "have to do" because it's "good for us." It can be fun, a source of joy, something to look forward to at the end of a long day, or a welcome break from work, or a reason to get up in the morning.
The key is finding exercise that you love: something that feels good, that makes you feel good about yourself. That starts with trying new things, experimenting. AND it often means looking at our mental commentary about exercise. What thoughts come up for you when you think about working out? How do you talk to yourself while you're exercising? Are your thoughts negative, or positive? Are you encouraging to yourself, or judgmental?
Many studies have shown that positive reinforcement leads to lasting behavior change, more so than negative reinforcement. So a huge part of my training style includes lots of positive reinforcement: positive affirmations, encouragements, highlighting accomplishments and achievements.
When we focus our attention on what is working, all the good things we are doing for ourselves and the good that is already in our life, we feel better. Exercise can absolutely be one of those good things, and it starts with the way we thing about exercise and how we talk to ourselves when we are exercising.
Let exercise be medicine for you: body and mind!