4 things to look for in a personal trainer

I recently came across this question that I thought was worth answering in a blog post for anyone who might be looking for a personal trainer. How do you know who will be the right fit for you?

Here are four qualities I would want in a personal trainer:

  1. Listens to my (realistic) goals and is willing to tailor a program appropriately. I want a trainer who cares about what I want and is willing to work with me to reach those goals. I’ve said it before on the blog, but I’ve encountered trainers who assume my goal is weight loss. I’m not sure why. Because I’m a woman? Because I’m not lean enough to step on a bodybuilding stage tomorrow? I don’t want a trainer who gives me a cookie-cutter plan for weight loss without even listening to my goals. I do want a trainer who asks me what results I’m trying to get from training, what I think my strengths and weaknesses are, and how much effort I’m realistically willing to put into training.
  2. Has success in training athletes with similar goals. If my goals are to improve my strength for squat, bench and deadlift, I want to hear about your clients that trained for their first powerlifting meet or improved their squat from switching from high bar to low bar.
  3. Teaches me to succeed on my own. I won’t be doing every single workout with my trainer, and I think that’s true for most people. I want my trainer to give me the tools to train independently, whether that’s a daily plan or information to structure my own workouts.
  4. Makes time for me. It’s comforting when a trainer remembers me without having to consult a piece of paper from our last session. I want to be able to text questions to my trainer and receive a response. I want to feel like my trainer is invested in my training and I’m not just a piece of the paycheck who is forgotten the minute I leave the gym.

What qualities do you look for in a trainer?

Stay fit,


How to support your partner’s fitness journey

Your partner just started their fitness journey. Alone. You’re not quite sure why, where you fit in or how to react. Here’s five things you can do to support your fit partner.

Ask them why they want to get fit.

I tried calling this bullet point a few different things, including, “Realize it’s not about you,” and “Don’t project motives,” but I didn’t want to be negative, and more importantly, those headings only represent part of the picture. Your partner probably isn’t getting fit to get the attention of someone new they want to hook up with or even so you think they’re hotter. They’re probably doing it to get healthier and feel better about themselves. But knowing that isn’t enough. It’s helpful to really understand the deeper “why” your partner wants to get in shape. Because 5 family members died of a heart attack before age 60, and at 40, your partner is starting to get nervous.  Because she was teased about being the “fat girl,” as a kid and always got picked last in gym, and even though she’s comfortable with her weight now, she’s still self-conscious that she can’t run a 5K.

Let them have alone time if that’s what they want.

We spend a lot of time thinking about what other people are doing for us and very little time thinking about what they’re doing for themselves. In my experience, spending a little time doing something just for you without having to think about someone else is a good way to get to know yourself and feel refreshed. Take a moment to think about that before you make your partner feel guilty about not heading home right after work or about later dinners. I’d even think twice before saying something like, “I miss you while you’re at the gym.” You may have good intentions and genuinely miss them, but try to survive that extra hour without making them feel like they should have stayed home instead.

Positive vibes only.

Say encouraging, positive things to your partner about their fitness journey. The obvious way to do this is to compliment how they look, but I challenge you to try some other forms of encouragement.

  • Tell them they seem more energetic or confident lately.
  • Congratulate them on a recent fitness victory or challenging workout they completed. (That means you have to ask about those things.)

Don’t be negative or a know it all. Avoid telling your wife she’s going to look manly if she trains chest and shoulders. Don’t tell him that dessert is going to ruin his progress. Don’t tell her she’s doing something all wrong or that you know the better way to get in shape, even if you’re pretty sure you’re right. Especially don’t do these things if your partner is newer to fitness. Part of the journey is navigating on your own and being proud you did it. The only exception I can think of is if you see your partner doing something in the name of health that’s actually dangerous.

Ask how you can get involved.

If you’re feeling left out because your partner started their fitness journey without you, ask if you can workout with them or get involved in some other way. Brace yourself. Your partner may not want to workout with you – see my second point. If that’s the case, talk about how you can start your own parallel fitness journey or be a supporter of theirs. Maybe your partner doesn’t want to run with you every day, but if you’re interested in running, you could sign up for the same 5K. She may not want to lift weights with you but she’s okay going to the gym at the same time. You have completely different exercise styles, but once or twice a week you can deviate from your normal routine and bike together. You can learn to prepare healthier meals, stand at the finish line of their race or make sure you’re home at a certain time so your partner doesn’t have to haul to children to the gym Kids’ Club.

Address your own insecurities.

Shall we address the big tomato in the room? (Any Parenthood fans?? Anyone?) Some people struggle to support their partner’s fitness journey because of their own insecurities. “He’ll realize he’s too good looking for me.” “She’ll like all the attention from other dudes.” “I don’t understand why my partner started this without me.” “My partner doesn’t like spending time with me anymore.” If this is you, please try to own it and admit it instead of being negative and unsupportive of your partner. Please don’t try to take something positive your partner is doing and make it something negative about you. I know this will be hard to do, but an honest conversation is the best way to address insecurities. You and your partner can work through insecurities together (everyone has them!) before they put a big strain on your relationship.

How do you support your partner through their fitness journey? How does your partner support you?

Stay fit,


Photo credit: Pexels stock photo

Weekly meal plan #10 (Mar. 27-Apr. 2)

Almost every day I struggle to hit my carb macros. I know. “Rough life, Marisa.” While everyone is struggling to hit their protein macros and trying to avoid cookies, I have a hard time getting enough carbs. I’m not a carb craver. What does that have to do with the meal plan? It means we’re eating a lot of rice because rice is a carb that I actually like. If you like rice as much as I do, this is the meal plan for you.


Leftovers (probably the buffalo chicken casserole)


Sausage and rice casserole 

Credit: The Midnight Baker


Spinach cream cheese stuffed chicken wrapped in bacon, rice and steamed broccoli


Credit: To Simply Inspire



Buffalo ranch chicken tacos with lettuce and blue cheese, steamed corn

Buffalo Ranch Slow Cooker Chicken
Credit: Sweet Little Bluebird


Lemon butter cod, rice and asparagus

Credit: Just a Pinch Recipes


Pesto stuffed pork chops, baked potato and green beans

Credit: All Recipes


Cheesy salsa verde chicken and rice with salad (didn’t end up making this yesterday because we went out to dinner)

Credit: Iowa Girl Eats

What are you eating this week? What do you do if you didn’t get a chance to make a meal you had planned for a previous week?

Stay fit,


Can you love your body but still want to change it?

I love my husband, but I wish he would stop forgetting where he left the cotton swabs he used to clean his ears.

That’s not an essential change he must make for me to love him, but still, wouldn’t it be nice?

I feel pretty much the same way about my body. I love it, but I wouldn’t be mad about seeing changes in some parts. So to answer the question posed in the title of this post, yes, I think you can love your body but still want to change it. Here’s why, a bit more specifically.

Loving my body isn’t just about looks. Or strength, or speed, or health. It’s about all those things and more. If one of those things isn’t where I want it to be, there is still a lot to love about my body. Some days, what I love about my body is the simple fact that it’s giving me life, and that’s enough.

I’m allowed to be disappointed in things I love. Going back to the husband analogy, I’m allowed to be angry with him, disappointed in him, and I can even ask him to think about changing certain behaviors that particularly bother me. None of those things mean I don’t love him. I’m allowed to be disappointed that I’m not getting stronger or faster, or annoyed with a stubborn body part that won’t shrink or grow, and that doesn’t mean I don’t love my body.

Loving my body means I take care of it. Love means more to me than just being happy. Love is an action. Loving my body means I take care of it whether I’m happy with it or not. Loving my body means I’m nice to it. I can still do the action of loving my body at the same time I’m trying to change it. In fact, if I was neglecting my body, changing it by starting to take care of it can be an act of self-love.

I know that changing my body won’t necessarily make me love it more. I’ve often seen people reach their goal weight and still feel unhappy or get their goal body and still think they had a lot more work to do. I was one of those people. Once I figured this out, it was a lot easier for me to decide to love my body unconditionally, all the time, and take the stress off myself when it came to changing it.

My body is changing anyway. Whether I’m trying to change it or not, my body is always changing and will continue to do so. It will change because of age, exercise, food, children, and the list goes on. I don’t have the option of picking a goal body and maintaining that appearance forever. That body exists for a brief point in time. If that’s the only form of myself I can love, I’m in for a lifetime of disappointment. Therefore, I choose to love my body in all its forms and changes, planned or unplanned.

What do you think? Can you love your body while still trying to change it?

Stay fit,


Beginner tips for counting macros

I’ve been counting macros for about three years. It’s like second nature to me now, but that wasn’t always the case. Many of the questions posted in the Facebook fitness groups I belong to involve counting macros – especially how to make it easier. Here are my top tips for new macro counters.

  1. Track what you already eat. If you haven’t started counting macros yet, start by logging what you already eat in MyFitnessPal for a few days. It will help you see if you favor protein, carbs or fats so you can adjust your existing diet to fit your macros.
  2. Include protein, carbs and fats at each meal. I try to have a balance of foods at each meal so I don’t end up having to pack my dinner full of the macronutrient I’ve been missing. Meals are more pleasant when they have variety.
  3. Meal plan. Take that second tip one step further and actually figure out what you’re going to eat for each meal during the week. Then go buy the food. Your days will go much smoother when you already know what you plan to eat and have it all on hand.
  4. Meal prep. Want to make life even easier? Batch prepare as much food as possible and portion it out if you can.
  5. Keep it simple. A recipe with lots of ingredients can be overwhelming when you first start tracking. Stick to easy foods, like lean meats, veggies and a simple grain or starch. Simple food doesn’t have to be bland or boring. Herbs and spices are easy, macro-friendly ways to make simple foods taste delicious. Once your comfortable, move to simple recipes, then more complicated ones.
  6. Pre-track your meals. I spend a few minutes each morning inputting what I plan to eat for the day in MyFitnessPal. Then I know where I’m lacking and I can make up for it with snacks. I keep a variety of snacks on hand so it’s easy for me to grab whatever I need.
  7. Repeat meals. I eat the same thing everyday for breakfast all week and the same thing for lunch a few times per week. Dinner is different for me every night so meals don’t get completely boring, but some people don’t mind doing the same dinner several days in a row. If you’re not into eating the same thing multiple days in a row, make note of your favorite meals so you can have them each week.

What tips do you have for tracking macros?

Stay fit,


Weekly meal plan #9 (Mar. 19-26)


Sorry I skipped a week! I’ll try not to do it again. This past week has been pretty busy. We were traveling a few days, ate at restaurants and foraged for leftovers, so there wasn’t much of a “plan” to post. But I’m back in the cooking game! Here’s what we’re eating all week.


BBQ pulled pork sweet potatoes and kicked up coleslaw. I like to top my BBQ pork with cheddar cheese and pepper rings.


Kale sausage lasagna and broccoli. I’m leaving the mushrooms out of the lasagna because my husband doesn’t like them and making my own Italian sausage with ground venison + pork with spices.

Credit: Today Food Club


Pulled pork and coleslaw tacos (using leftovers from Sunday), steam bag corn


Instant Pot sauerkraut, kielbasa and potatoes. I’ll be taking some of this to my dad since he said the recipe sounded so good.

Credit: PaleoPot


Italian chicken meatball subs with kale Caesar salad.

Credit: Daring Gourmet


Lemon caper fish sandwiches and sweet potato fries. I cook my fish in a pan with butter, lemon juice and capers. I add lettuce, tomato, sliced cheddar and Arizona Heat spicy mustard to my sandwich.


Cheesy salsa verde chicken and rice with salad

Credit: Iowa Girl Eats


Buffalo chicken bacon ranch casserole. This has been in the meal plan before but it’s a big favorite.

Credit: Civilized Caveman

What are you eating this week?

Stay fit,



6 ways I know I need a rest day

A little while ago I talked about looking at working out like it’s part of your job – an important responsibility you wouldn’t skip without a really good reason. I said I think of unplanned rest days like sick days at work. I operate like I have a limited number of them and only use them  when I really need to.

Monday and Tuesday, I really needed rest days. I felt wiped out, like I couldn’t work out if my life depended on it. The combination of intense training days last week and lack of sleep over the weekend really got to me. As I contemplated using my precious rest days, I got to thinking about what rest day reasons pass muster for me.

  1. I’m sick. If I have a bad cold, fever and chills, the flu or a stomach virus, I’m not going to the gym. If going to work sick is a bad idea, doing hard physical activity while sick is an extra bad idea. My body needs energy to heal, not exercise.
  2. I just finished a challenging competition or a peak performance week. Last year I took 3 full rest days after running half marathons and competing in a Strongman meet before transitioning back to light activity. If I have particularly hard, long run or burn myself out on powerlifting PRs, I’ll take a rest day if I feel I need it.
  3. I have a series of really awful workouts. An extra rest day is in order if I have several really weak or slow workouts in a row. I may be giving 100 percent for that day, but on a healthy, well-rested day it would only be 60 or 70 percent.
  4. I’m in a mental funk about working out. If I’m feeling extra negative about my workout, the solution might be as simple as doing something different or starting a new training program, but sometimes the answer is a rest day.
  5. I’m injured. All injuries don’t demand rest. If I messed up my knee, I probably shouldn’t run, but I can do an upper body workout. Other injuries, like a pinched nerve or a pulled back muscle make it hard to do anything and require some rest to improve.
  6. I’m physically wiped out. Even if I’m not sick and can’t pinpoint an injury, I may still need a rest day if I feel physically fatigued and wiped out from overtraining. This goes along with #3. If I have really low energy, can’t engage the right muscles, can’t regulate my body temperature or just feel downright bad, it’s time to rest. Feeling physically wiped out, along with injury, is different from feeling sore, which I rarely use as a reason to rest.

When do you take an unplanned rest day?

Stay fit,


Photo credit: Pixabay stock photo