Episode 92: Sustainable Fitness with Noelle Tarr

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Thanks for joining us for episode 92 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show.


Today we are very excited to be interviewing Noelle Tarr!

Noelle Tarr is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner certified by The Nutritional Therapy Association. She’s a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Personal Trainer. Her kettlebell training comes from “Strong First” and she’s passionate about helping people become strong from home. She’s also the writer behind all the posts you’ll find on coconutsandkettlebells.com and she’s the co-host of the incredibly entertaining and fast growing health and fitness podcast, The Paleo Women Podcast.

Fitness. The word can bring to mind a picture of sweating through intense cardio and weights at the gym. We know physical fitness is important, but it’s common to feel as though if I can never get to the level of commitment and strength of the notable faces in the fitness industry, then why try?

What if fitness could be less about hardcore workout regimens and more about doing activities that you actually enjoy and engaging in movement that works best for your body? Noelle shows us that it is.

Listen today as Noelle challenges and redefines your view of fitness. She inspires us to approach fitness from a mindset of developing an intuitive rhythm of exercise according our goals and health that evolve overtime.

Some of what Noelle will be talking about are the challenges involved in developing and maintaining a fitness routine, her thoughts on the concept of willpower, and how you can safely engage in fitness when dealing with chronic illness.

Here are some of the questions we discussed with Noelle:

  • What got you into fitness and nutrition and what struggles did you have that led you to develop your current philosophy on health?
  • How do you feel comparison and things like poor body image play into a woman’s fitness journey?
  • What are some of the other common challenges that you see in your audience when it comes to developing and sticking to a fitness routine?
  • Do you have a lot of experience with either past clients or people in your audience that really struggle with this idea of motivation or willpower? How do you tell people how to deal with that?
  • How can someone dealing with chronic illness or regular symptoms develop a workout routine that works for them and doesn’t either burn them out or actually harm their health?
  • Can you tell our listeners a little bit about your “Strong From Home” program that just released in January?


Links Discussed:


Laura: Hi everyone. Welcome to episode 92 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. I’m Laura Schoenfeld and with me as always is Kelsey Kinney.

Kelsey: Hey everyone.

Laura: So Kelsey, how’s it going this week?

Kelsey: Pretty good. I am in the final throes of completing my gut health program. I’ve been just totally hunkered down doing that and really just trying to get that done as soon as possible and get into beta mode. I’m really excited, but of course as you know, Laura, it’s a whole lot of work to go through that product creation mode.

Laura: Yes. I feel you. I’m currently working on an e-book that I’m writing with somebody who it will be TBA because I don’t want to necessarily talk about it yet until we’re closer to having it ready. But I have these blocks of time in my schedule set up so that I can work on it.

Unfortunately right now I’m still doing this Daniel Fast which I think I’ve gotten past the point of feeling terrible on it. The first couple of days I felt awful and now I’m in just a little bit of a zombie mode where I feel like I’m functioning but my brain is just kind of checked out, which isn’t awesome.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: It doesn’t help that I have no appetite for these foods. I was joking with my fiancé yesterday. I was like I am so over eating nuts, and seeds, and plants. I want animal products.

Kelsey: I’m done!

Laura: We’ll see how long it lasts.

Kelsey: Yeah, it certainly hurts your productivity, I’m sure.

Laura: Yeah, and it’s funny because I feel like talking is fine. I can talk to people, I can do these podcasts, I can talk with my clients fine. For some reason my brain seems to work better like that. But then when it comes to writing, especially writing something that is as full-on as what we’re working on, I’m just kind of like I don’t really have any motivation to do this.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: On one hand it’s annoying because it’s cutting into my productivity which is not really optimal. But then on the other hand, it’s an interesting experience because I’m kind of learning the subtleties of what a, not inappropriate, but like inadequate diet can do.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I’m not necessarily starving, and I’m not losing weight, and I’m not feeling awful right now. But I’m not really thinking as clearly, or I don’t sleep as well. The other night I actually didn’t end up falling asleep until 3:00 in the morning which, was pretty bad.

Kelsey: Wow.

Laura: I caved and had a couple of eggs, which is what kind of allowed me to sleep that night.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: I felt bad because I was like I know I’m cheating on this fast, but I do need to get sleep because I had to get up early the next day.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I’m just like see how long it goes. I’m trying to be supportive of my fiancé. He’s doing it. And then also trying to realize that I can handle deprivation and not feeling my best. But I don’t know. It’s tough. Like I said, I have a lot of empathy for anyone who’s on a too low calorie or macronutrient restricted diet because that’s what basically I’m on right now and I just feel terrible.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I’m like I can’t wait until I can eat enough again in a couple weeks.

Kelsey: Yeah, no kidding.

Laura: Or sooner if I don’t make it. But we’ll see.

We have a really awesome interview today. Actually we talk a lot about this under eating, over training, trying to figure out what works for you and recognizing when something’s not working for you. Why don’t we jump into that? But before we do, here’s a quick word from our sponsor:

Laura: Alright. I’m really excited to introduce our guest for today. She is a friend of mine and someone that I love following in all sorts of social media, online, I love to read her blog. I’m half friend, half fan girl for this lady.

But today we have Noelle Tarr. She is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner certified by The Nutritional Therapy Association. She’s a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Personal Trainer. Her kettlebell training comes from “Strong First” and she’s passionate about helping people become strong from home. She’s also the writer behind all the posts you’ll find on coconutsandkettlebells.com and she’s the co-host of the incredibly entertaining and fast growing health and fitness podcast, The Paleo Women Podcast.

Laura: Sounds like you have a lot of stuff going on there Noelle.

Noelle: Just a few things!

Laura: Just a couple things cooking. How have you been lately?

Noelle: Good! I’ve been good. I’m excited. There’s a lot of things happening, and changing, and growing. Especially I’m in that interesting phase of growing your business. I graduated from the NTP program a little over two years ago. As you both know, you ramp up and like two years in you’re like starting to kind of finally, I don’t want to say make it, but things start to come together. I’m in that phase where everything is coming together, but everything is also really overwhelming and really busy.

Laura: Right.

Noelle: I need to hire people, but I’m not in that place where I can have full time staff to help me do all the things I want to do. It’s a learning experience. It’s been a lot of fun and launching “Strong From Home” and all that stuff has been really a learning experience. I’m enjoying it.

Laura: Yeah. I feel like two years is that time where you kind of know what you want to do and you’re getting enough traffic and notoriety that you have an audience. And then you’re like, oh, now I actually need to start doing stuff that’s business productive, just figuring out all the different pieces of the puzzle to keep moving together so that you’re not doing everything yourself and working 100 hours a week trying to maintain this growing business.

Noelle: Yeah, that’s what happens. That’s what happens. It’s funny because being in the health industry, you kind of put yourself on the back burner and so your own health starts to decline in many ways. For me it’s been a whole learning experience of how to balance my own health with trying to put other people first, and take care of other people, and really being passionate about helping other people, but I can’t sacrifice my own health in the process.

Laura: Yeah.

Noelle: That’s a big part of it.

Laura: That’s a really common issue I think.

Noelle: Yeah.

Laura: Kelsey and I have had that issue in the past. I think it’s a work in progress at all times. You always kind of have to be checking in with yourself and say okay, am I still taking care of myself? At the end of the day, if you’re doing stuff that you wouldn’t recommend to a client or a listener on your podcast or somebody who’s reading your blog, then you might want to check in with what kind of decisions you’re making.

But I know that you’re definitely very passionate about not only helping other people, but making sure that you’re a good representative of your guidelines and your recommendations. I think you’re a great role model.

Let’s talk a little bit about your story. I’m going to put you through that since you had me do that on your podcast for you. Do the nutshell version of your life story. But we want to know what got you into fitness and nutrition and what struggles did you have that led you to develop your current philosophy on health?

Noelle: I’ll keep this as short as possible. Sometimes I’m like where do I even start? Back in high school I was exposed like many people to the traditional and more conventional ideas behind health, and fitness, and all that stuff. I grew up actually vegetarian. I struggled with IBS and some really terrible stomach and gut issues as a child, as a kid, at 8-9 years old. When I was about 12 or so we went on a completely vegetarian diet, drank carrot juice, and barley green, and all that stuff.

My motivation to do that with my family was to start feeling better. I did initially because we took out dairy, and we took out a lot of grain based stuff, and a lot of the vegetable oils, and all those kind of products that happen when you start…and snack foods, kids snack foods. I did start to feel a lot better. But it just turned into something, it eventually turned into a general vegetarian diet.

By the time I had got to high school, I had gained a little bit of weight, normal weight that you would gain as a 16-17 year old becoming a woman. I had associated a lot of that weight gain with negative things, like that was a bad thing that had happened. I felt like maybe I had lost some value, and worth, and power because that’s kind of what I was reading. I was seeing that in magazines and my body was changing from what I was seeing kind of everywhere that promotes health and fitness.

I decided to kind of go on a rather strict diet and reduce my calories. That worked for a little bit, but then it stopped working. It was this endless journey towards trying to, what I perceived to be the ideal body, trying to move towards that ideal body making sure that I looked a specific way, and that I was lean, and that I was attractive according to the social norms. Honestly it was never a journey that ended, right? I think many people experience that.

As I went into college and pressure increased. I was actually a cheerleader in college and so I was just entirely consumed with how much fitness I could do and how little I could eat, and what I thought I was super into fitness and nutrition. And I was, but I was more obsessed with food, and fitness, and controlling it. As I tried to get more and more control, eventually I hit a breaking point, and I think a lot of people who maybe have done diets before can understand this, but you just become consumed with how little can I eat?

But then eventually you’re brain starts to work because your body wants to keep you alive and you start to elevate foods that you’ve restricted and overeat them, and binge on them, or sometimes you just “can’t control your cravings.” It was this endless cycle of kind of this almost restrict, binge cycle. Sometimes even “purging” with exercise and fitness. I always felt like I needed to be doing more. If I could just do a little bit more, I would finally have the performance, and have the body and the look that I thought I needed to have, and I would be leaner.

I got into doing a lot of endurance stuff, which I genuinely loved. I really did love the triathalon community and I did some half Ironmans, and marathons, and stuff like that. But looking back on it, what I was choosing to do really gave  me a level of comfort because if you run 17 miles on a Saturday, it’s a comforting feeling once you have this fear of your body changing or not doing enough exercise to work off the food you ate, all that stuff. It was a comfortable place for me to be doing all that endurance stuff.

Eventually I ran into a big brick wall of over training and under eating, all the stuff, lost my period, was constantly cold, never got my thyroid checked, but I know I had some major hyperthyroidism going on. I really kind of lost a lot of my I would say kind of….not happiness, but a lot of my peace and my sanity, which was my anxiety was heightened and elevated mostly because I wasn’t eating any fat. I just kind of ran into this terrible injury that nobody could figure out. It really sidelined me for a year and a half.

Post college I kind of had a wakeup moment of…and this was really before a lot of the internet, which makes me feel really old. The internet is such a resource. “The internet,” even the way I’m saying. The ability to research what you are thinking about or what you’re struggling with is just huge. Look at this podcast and look at the podcast I do. It’s like that’s where I go now. If I want to learn about something, I go to a podcast. That didn’t exist really. Maybe it did, I just wasn’t necessarily that involved in it.

I felt alone and I didn’t really know what to do. I eventually just kind of had this wakeup call. I remember being like what am I doing? What am I doing this? That question of why really started to drive everything about what I did from there on out. If I was doing all these things to please these people who frankly I didn’t actually want to associate myself with, who I didn’t really appreciate or value their opinion, people who thought you had to have 6 pack abs, or you had to look a specific way in order to be valuable, or those who did more exercise were better than other people. I didn’t really like those kind of people anyway. So why was I trying so hard to please them?

Moving forward, I kind of reframed everything, built my own kind of new philosophy on health and life. And that’s kind of when I stumbled onto CrossFit and the Paleo diet. I think the Paleo diet really changed my belief system. Growing up vegetarian, eating low fat, when you find something that makes so much sense and it almost challenges you, you kind of have a second of like, hey, what else have I been believing that’s not actually maybe not based on a lot of evidence or solid truth? I was able to kind of completely shift my way of eating, and life, and my thinking about things.

And CrossFit really helped me. I got out of a lot of bad endurance stuff and got more into functional kind of fitness. From there it’s just been a really cool process of learning my body, what’s right for me, helping other people figure out, hey, you don’t have to be chasing programs that everybody else are doing. You can figure out what’s right for you. That also goes to eating, right? And food. And the idea that there’s just one diet that works for everybody is really exciting, it sounds great, but it’s just a false and it tears people down, and wears people down, and it makes people pursue things that really aren’t right for them and get trapped in diets or eating foods that necessarily aren’t making them healthy or are robbing their health, removing foods that they don’t necessarily need to.

I love kind of that individualized, which I know you guys support, approaching health and fitness, not just what we eat, but also fitness with the attitude of what’s going to be best for me? What’s going to work in my life? And stop the comparison game of what’s everybody else doing? What do I need to do to measure up to everybody else? And just focus on yourself and making your body more capable.

Because that’s where happiness come from, right? Happiness comes from what our body is able to do, not what it looks like. When we chase a look, which can be a part…like it’s fine to want to lose weight and to have certain goals. But when we’re constantly focused and chasing a specific look that may or not be right for our body, it’s never going to end in long term happiness, ever. That fades really quick. And bodies change, right? And they fluctuate.

I always encourage people to chase after and pursue making your body more capable and making it capable of doing things you want to in life. That’s kind of where my brand is, and where I sit now, and how I work. I don’t work one on one with clients anymore. I just recently stopped doing that, but that was just such a big part of working with my clients in both health and fitness.

Laura: Yeah. I think you learn a lot from working with other people beyond just what you’ve learned in your own life.

Noelle: Yeah.

Laura: It sounds like you went through a journey of figuring out what was best for you and understanding that it’s not necessarily set in stone even when you figure it out for the first time. There’s things that change in your life that maybe need adjustment in the other areas, like diet and fitness. Being able to be flexible like that I feel like is something that isn’t often addressed. That’s one of the reasons I love following your work and sending my clients there because I just feel like understanding the ability to shift as necessary to make things work for you is maybe underappreciated in the health world.

Noelle: I think definitely too in the fitness world. I think especially now seeing a lot of what you’re doing and you’ve changed a lot of your eating and personal strength goals and stuff like that. I just find it so refreshing to see women kind of shift and say what’s going to be right for me today? Even just what’s going to be right for me today? How much did I sleep last night? Am I going to be adding fuel to the flame by trying to go in and do some high intensity work for an hour when I was up all night with my newborn?

I feel like especially post-partum I have so many women that are like well I’m doing a “Whole 30” and I also am doing CrossFit 6 days a week, I’m so tired and I have this adrenal issues. These are real people and they’re like, I don’t know what’s going on and I can’t lose these last five pounds. I’m like, well maybe it’s probably because you’re literally adding fuel to the fire by restricting and trying to do these high intensity workouts.

There is so much that can come out of a body that is balanced, right? And a body that has positive input such as sleep and sufficient calories. Then adding in appropriate restrictions because maybe food intolerances or other things too, other reasons too that that might be appropriate. But also adding in fitness at the right time and at the right space in your life and recognizing that you don’t have to do it all, all the time.

It’s something that’s often overlooked. I love that’s its becoming more popular now in health overall, but now in fitness is really where I think we can still do a lot of work.

Laura: Yeah.

Kelsey: Yeah. I feel like people like the idea of kind of jumping into things head first and just kind of going crazy with it. I think that’s why programs like “The Whole 30” or even just strict Paleo kind of diet, those kinds of things are popular is because people get in this mindset that, okay, I have to just go hog wild into it. I have to go 100%. There’s no in between, there’s no balance necessarily. It’s either I eat unhealthy, or I eat this way.

I think that applies to fitness too. People kind of get this idea that from whatever they’re reading or listening to whatever is popular, that that is the way to get to the goals that they want.

I think there’s a lot to be said about personalization. It sounds like you think that way too, Noelle, which is great. I think that’s becoming more of a popular narrative that you hear here now, which is wonderful because I do think that it’s just way too easy to fall into that trap of thinking that you have to go 100% and do things a particular way to get a particular result.

Noelle: Yeah, absolutely.

Laura: Ironically I would say sometimes doing “100%” is actually maybe counterproductive toward goals. Just for a lot of my clients, and myself included, and maybe, Noelle, you’ve experienced this as well where going too hard or doing too much actually can backfire.

It’s not even just about saying you don’t have to do this because x, y, z , you don’t need to be that thin, or you don’t need to be that body shape, or whatever we’re saying is not necessary. But then also realizing that even if that is your goal to see improvements in your physique, that balls to the wall type of training routine isn’t necessarily even going to get you there. It’s not only just maybe not the best goal to set, but even if you are setting a physique goal, it’s like maybe working out 7 days a week isn’t actually helping you and it’s making it harder to get to that goal. Would you agree with that?

Noelle: 100%. I think we have to see workouts as stress, right? You’re training is stress on your body. Stress is not all bad, right?

Laura: Mm hmm.

Noelle: When stress happens in appropriate doses, especially when we’re talking about fitness, when we’re putting our body under intentional stress with our training, and then thereafter allowing it to recover, that can have very positive outcomes. That’s when we see adaptation. That’s when we see us becoming better.

However, like most of us as we just were talking about in the introduction, are dealing with so much stress from so many other places. We have family, and kids, and work, and full time jobs, and just so many other things that are going on. So when we’ve decided that we have to go balls to the wall, a hardcore program, most of the time people don’t allow themselves to have the flexibility to not always be doing that program.

In other words, it’s fine to to say, hey, I want to be able to do something 6 days a week. But is that realistic? Maybe on day 5 of the week or day 6 of the week when you feel like crap, you haven’t really recovered from some of your workouts, you’re sore, and you didn’t really sleep that well, maybe certainly taking that day off, sleeping in, getting extra time to recover is going to actually take you closer to your goal. It’s going to get you to your goals much faster because we’re not pushing ourselves and risking getting an injury, right?

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Noelle: Because that’s when injuries happen is when we push too hard and we go too much, we apply too much stress. But also we’re allowing our body to recover so that the next time we do workout, we can work out harder, and stronger, and faster.

Rest has to be an intentional part of any training program. I always say planed rest is great, but you also have to give yourself one unplanned rest day where it’s if you wake up and you’re so sore that you’ve lost certain mobility, certain mobility areas, like maybe you can’t stand up quite as well from the toilet as you expected, that tends to be painful after heavy squat days or something, and you notice that you’re compromised and you haven’t quite recovered, you didn’t sleep that well, yeah, that’s probably a good unplanned rest day. Or you can just shift to doing a walk or something, getting outside and walking for 30 minutes. And that’s going to help you recover and get you closer to your goals.

I always say more is not inherently better. Sometimes more can actually work directly against your goals, which is a concept that’s very hard for people to get. But when we’re talking about women in general, stress and adrenal and thyroid health, and endocrine health, and hormonal balance, doing more, doing too much can put your body in a state where it’s not going to be building muscle, not going to be making process, not going to be recovering and repairing. Instead you’re going to start degrading your health and you’re going to potentially have issues with hormonal imbalances and chronic cortisol.  And that can really screw up everything, like literally everything.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Noelle: It’s a hard concept to get, but I’m like sometimes sleeping in and skipping your workout actually gets you closer to where you want to be.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Like you were mentioning, sometimes it’s not just about a person thinking that they have to follow that routine, it’s that they see other people doing that kind of routine and they say, well X Y Z Paleo Instagram star looks like that and she works out 6 days a week. Maybe that means I need to be doing that. How do you feel comparison and things like poor body image play into a woman’s fitness journey?

Noelle: Oh man. It’s so tough. It really is. I always am a big encourager of people just…even if the people you’re following let’s say on Instagram or Facebook have really good intentions, but it’s triggering you and it makes you feel like you have to do something and compromise your own health to measure up or makes you feel worse about yourself, you should not be engaging with media that makes you feel worse about yourself, period. There’s no need.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Noelle: Even if the people have the best of intentions, you have to remove them from your life because we live in a world where we are seriously just overrun with other people’s lives. Social media is a highlight reel. I’m guilty of this too. I post photos and things of the best parts of my life. Sometimes I’m more realistic on Instagram or whatever, but mostly my personal Facebook page is just like hey, this is happening, or hey, this is the new thing in my life, or hey, I’m excited about this.

And that’s fine, that’s not bad or wrong. But we have to approach social media with that understanding which is in a world where we are constantly and completely connected, we are not seeing the parts of people that are maybe when they’re struggling. We’re not seeing people’s down moments. We’re not seeing what’s maybe really going on behind the scenes. We’re seeing post pictures of people with their shirts off and sports bras, and their workout, and them saying super encouraging things, and seemingly being so motivated, and having the world at their fingertips. But I don’t even think that they mean to project that.

Kelsey: Right.

Noelle: That’s what we’re perceiving. It can be really, really discouraging. It is I think a big part of why so many women push themselves to do certain types of workout. This is another thing is like a lot of women, and my clients, and even people in my community don’t get into fitness because they already feel so intimidated and overwhelmed and they already feel like this guilt about what they won’t be doing because they feel like there’s something they should be doing.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Noelle: They know they really don’t like running. They know they don’t really want to go and do CrossFit, it’s not really their thing. So they don’t even bother with getting involved because they already know they’re going to feel guilt and shame for all the things they are not doing that they think they should be doing. All these “shoulds” is what really paralyzes people from doing what’s right for them.

That’s why I always encourage people, and this is hard for me too, so I get it. But hey, if you do 7 minutes, like a workout that’s 7 minutes long, maybe you warm up and cool down afterwards so it ends up taking you 15 minutes. But a 7 minute workout that’s intentional, high quality, and it’s going to push you is worth it, right? And it’s still you pursuing your goals. If you create a plan that is within your time constraints, that’s going to be the best plan in the world. That’s the plan that works for you, right?

Kelsey: Right.

Noelle: Because everybody looks everywhere and it’s like well Sally has 5 kids and she also runs 18 marathons a year, so I should be able to do that. It’s all these “shoulds” that keeps us from actually doing things that are right for us, which is really kind of the secret to consistency, which is setting up a plan for ourselves that we actually enjoy. That’s kind of a big deal, doing things we actually enjoy, but also making it accessible and also making sure that it fits within our time constraints. Because the number one cause of people not doing a plan or a fitness routine is lack of time or lack of motivation because they eventually get burnt out because they try so hard to put all this effort into doing the things they think they should be doing because they saw some Instagram star get 6 pack abs doing the same thing.

It’s just such a comparison trap. This is so odd. Again, it sounds so old, but getting older, once I finally turned 30 it’s interesting how little I care now about what other people think in terms of what I’m doing for my fitness and what I’m eating. I actually don’t. And I cared so much in college. It’s part of maturity, but it’s also part of kind of pulling off the veil so to speak and saying, huh, I don’t necessarily care as much. It doesn’t actually matter what everybody else thinks.

When you start to see the tactics from the diet and the fitness industry, mostly anytime anybody is trying to sell you a product, it’s always, hey, you’re not worthy, you don’t have value, you should feel ashamed for having  x, y, and z. I have this product and it’s going to help take away your shame. Because shame is an incredibly powerful motivator.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kelsey: Right.

Noelle: When the diet and fitness industry uses it, you are likely to buy whatever they’re selling if you feel shame for whatever they’re trying to project on you. Once you kind of see beyond that, you see those tactics, and you see that there’s an entire world out there that is trying to tell you that you aren’t good enough, that you aren’t worthy, that something’s wrong with you, that you should feel shame for whatever it is that you look like, you start to see things completely differently and you start to really feel empowered to do things that are right for you instead of trying to live up to other people’s expectations of what a woman should be, and do, and look like.

Laura: Boom.

Noelle: I don’t know if that was an answer, more like a rant.

Laura: That’s alright, we like rants.

Noelle: Okay.

Laura: It sounds like comparison, and shame, and should’ve type of thought processes that people have, which are super common, like you said, you’ve been there, I know I’ve been here, Kelsey, I’ve seen stuff that you’ve written on social media lately being transparent about your experience. As women I feel like it’s very common for us to experience that “we should be doing this.” I know being in the nutrition field kind of amplifies that because now you’re like, well, I’m supposed to be professional at this, so now it’s not even my personal life, it’s my business life that’s affected by my decisions. It’s something that all 3 of us have experienced and I think a lot of us have worked though it, and matured, and gotten to a place where we feel more confident in our decision making.

But what are some of the other common challenges that you see in your audience when it comes to developing and sticking to a fitness routine?

Noelle: The biggest one for me is people not doing things that they actually enjoy and perceiving that they need to do something. I can’t tell you how many people perceive that…and this is kind of how fitness was defined back in the 80s once the fitness movement started…but people perceive that there is one specific way to get fit or their fitness is defined by going to the gym and lifting weights, or getting on cardio machines, which is not a bad thing. I did that yesterday. I was walking in the gym uphill on the treadmill. But that’s kind of what people perceive as that’s how you get fit, that is how you attain fitness.

Having these predefined like I need to either do CrossFit, or I need to be going to the gym, or whatever, which again, I’m not hating on CrossFit, but this is kind of like where we are right now with of course the health and fitness movement. CrossFit has kind of been becoming more and more popular. And it’s not right for everybody, and that’s okay.

You don’t have to feel guilty or feel like you have to be doing 30 minutes on the cardio equipment, and then 30 minute dedicated to weights, and then 15 minutes dedicated to abs. That’s kind of what a lot of people perceive it to be. But really if you can just do what you enjoy, if you’re moving your body, that’s going to be a great thing. That’s going to be a great thing. If it’s walking in the beginning…and that’s probably the second one is a lot of people perceive that they have to be doing a set amount of time per week, or per day, or whatever in order for it to be effective.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Noelle: And really you don’t have to jump in and do….Like we were talking about, but you don’t have to jump in and do hey, I’m going to start a workout routine this week. I’m going to do an hour on Monday through Friday. It doesn’t have to be that way.

I would much rather see people try out things slowly doing things that they enjoy whether that’s maybe doing a dance class and just have fun whether it’s doing yoga. Experiment, put yourself out there a little bit. Do things you actually enjoy. Do things that are going to make you happier, but also really focusing on what’s going to serve you not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. Because if you have to really work yourself up emotionally to kind of like, okay, I’ve got to get in there and do the thing, and then you’ve got to push yourself, and it’s kind of draining, and maybe you are exhausted afterward. That’s not going to bring you vitality.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Noelle: I always find a lot of encouragement from doing things that are almost stress relieving. Right now a big part of my routine is doing a lot of walks and trying to get outside more. Especially I have some preexisting back issues, and so it’s been a lot of fun for me to kind of build up my endurance with just walking.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Noelle: Coming from somebody who used to run all the time, that’s a huge life change. But that’s what’s really great for me right now, and my fitness is building, and I’m getting stronger and better. And of course eventually I’ll be able to throw around some kettlebells again and maybe I’ll do a kettlebell workout here or there. But I mean for me it’s just about getting back into it, kind of slowly easing into what I want to be doing. And it may change later and my desires may change later.

Even if something works for you right now, that doesn’t mean that it’s going to work for you in the future. If it stops working for you, it’s okay to change things up. Again, doing things that you like, having the understanding that you can do short workouts or you can just do a 15 walk and that counts, that’s part of the process.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Noelle: That’s what’s going to help you get to your goals and achieve your goals just much faster and much more enjoyable. Having that flexibly of saying, I don’t have to do one thing for the rest of my life, and it’s okay if I join a CrossFit gym and do it for a year but then decide to move on to other things, or decide to do kettlebell workouts from home instead. I don’t have to feel guilt or pressure that I’m not holding up to somebody else’s standard.

It’s really hard for people to understand, like how do I have flexibility? I’m supposed to be disciplined and do all this stuff.  But I think flexibility is actually the key to a successful fitness plan, which is really hard for people to grasp because that seemingly is like, well if I have too much flexibility, then I’m going to lose it. Well, I would actually argue the contrary. The more flexibility you give yourself, the more you’re going to be able to take those rest days when you need to, the more you’re going to be drawn to do the things that you actually want to be doing. Because that’s a big sign of over training is burnout.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Noelle: I’ve been there. I know many people who have been there. When we get burnt out, sometimes we just stop cold turkey and we don’t ever get back into it. By including flexibility, you give yourself a little bit more freedom, and you prevent injuries, and burnout, and all that kind of stuff and you give yourself the freedom to do the things that you want to be doing instead of thinking a workout is defind by going into the gym and going hard.

Maybe today it’s just not. Maybe today is walking or going and experimenting with your first Zumba class, just having fun, and moving, and trying new things.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kelsey:  Yeah, absolutely. And I think that plays a really big role in the idea that people get stuck on, which is how do I stay motivated to continue working out for the rest of my life? I think when you give yourself that flexibility, you don’t necessarily need so much willpower and motivation.

It’s like if I don’t feel like doing something today because I’m too tired and didn’t get enough sleep, I can skip it for today or I can do something different that feels really good based on how I’m feeling today. You’re still doing things on a regular basis and that kind of builds that idea that you are somebody who is active.

I think once you kind of get that idea in your head, it’s a lot easier to just continue doing things because it’s habit rather than having to force yourself to do something that maybe you don’t like just to be “disciplined.”

Do you have a lot of experience with either past clients or people in your audience that really struggle with this idea of motivation or willpower? How do you tell people how to deal with that?

Noelle: Yeah. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out, what is the thing? Because it’s really lack of time and lack of motivation are what you keep people from doing the things that they generally…I mean people generally want to be doing things. They generally want to be in the gym, but the truth of the matter is 80% of Americans are not even meeting the standard basic exercise requirements. We know that the large majority of people aren’t doing fitness and they’ll tell you they just don’t have the time or the motivation.

I have spent a lot of time trying to research and figure out what it is. A big part of it is all the things we’ve talked about, is having this idea that you think you need to be doing A, B, or C and that you need to be putting in a ton of time. That’s just not true.

That’s one huge thing is to first let go of those beliefs. Let go of those ideas, that guilt that already exists before you even go into the gym and do your stuff, which is oh I’m not doing everything I should be doing and I should be doing what she’s doing. No. What’s best for you and what’s going to help you achieve your goals is first and foremost is going to have to fit into your schedule and you’re going to have to like it.

Put in some work and figure out what you like because I promise you, I promise you there’s something that you will enjoy because movement in general is very advantageous to the body, so you’ll feel good. Even if it’s afterwards, you’ll have more energy. You’re never going to like something immediately. It’s the newness factor.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Noelle: It’s like as you start to kind of develop and understanding of something, you start to love it more. You do need to put in a little bit of time just to give yourself some time to adapt to it and figure out if you do like it or not. That’s one huge thing.

I think a second huge thing is figuring out your tendencies and exactly how it is that you operate. I’m sure you guys have talked about this before, but Gretchen Rubin has the book and a podcast and she talks about these four tendencies of people. I tend to actually really agree with it because I tell you I find that everybody falls into one of the categories.

For me personally, I’m a questioner and that means that I have to know without a shadow of a doubt that what I’m doing is advantageous and what I’m doing is effective and I have to research things. Before I buy things I spend hours researching, and looking at reviews, and all this stuff. It makes total sense to me because I spent so much time researching and trying to figure out nutrition and diet and it was just such a crazy thing to me to find the Paleo diet and think that something could not align with all the other things that I had believed.

I’m physical therapy right now and I’m always asking her, I’m like okay, why are you doing this? And why do I need to do that? Because if you tell me why, then I will do it. That plays into everything that I do. That plays into how I’m going to interact with fitness long term. If I know that walking is really good for me, and it helps my back, and it gets my heart rate up, and it helps build endurance and strength in my legs, I’m going to do it. That’s kind of my tendency.

There’s other tendencies like obligors who are going to need accountability. A lot of people I would find they say I used to do x, y, and z, and I was really great at it, and now I just can’t do it now. I don’t know what’s going on, I just don’t have the motivation anymore. Well, chances are you probably had some sort of coach or friend that you met and that person held you accountable. If you need accountability, then you need to work that into your life. You need to work it into your life. If you have a friend that you meet, you need to work it into your life. If you have a trainer that you check in with once a week, or you have even we were talking about diet, like a Registered Dietician or somebody that you actually check in with and that’s holding you accountable but also providing guidance.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Noelle: That’s a huge part. The other two are upholders, which is somebody who just literally…this is my husband…but they love writing down goals, and making goals for themselves, and they don’t have any problem upholding stuff.

Then rebels, which rebels are an interesting crowd. I’ve actually had a lot of people sign up for “Strong From Home” and there are a lot of people in my community who are rebels, which in other words is if somebody imposes rules or regulations on them, they’re not going to do it.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Noelle: When we’re talking about things about fitness, if somebody says you need to be working out x, y, z and this is what you need to be doing, they’re going to do the opposite. It really is about empowering rebels to kind of make their own plan and say no, I’m going to do something kind of against the grain, or I’m going to make the decision for myself and I’m going to do this in a way that I want to do it, which again, fits into kind of everything we’ve talked about.

It’s really figuring out what are your tendencies? Willpower is kind of a funny thing because that was about motivation, but when we’re talking about willpower, it’s not a finite thing that is something you can get more or less of. Willpower is really, I like to think of it like a tall glass of water. And if you have this tall glass of water and all the decisions that you make throughout the day to include your job, and life with your family, and your dog, and all things….I say dog because I have two and I don’t have any kids, but it’s still drains my willpower. I live in the city so I literally have to like, okay, now here we are going for the second poop walk. It’s just sometimes draining especially when it’s really, really, really cold outside.

But all those decisions drain your willpower so you keep pouring out of that glass, pouring out of that glass, pouring out of that glass. By the end of the day, you’re supposed to go to the gym and do the workout thing and you’re glass is empty. You’re just not going to do it.

It’s all about setting up your life in a way and your day in a way where you don’t have to keep pouring from that glass. In other words, if you struggle with going by some restaurant or going by your favorite shoe shop, you take a different route. You don’t go by that so that you don’t even have to make that decision.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Noelle: What are things that you can do that can actually eliminate the decision that needs to be made all together, or eliminate the need to resist making a specific decision?

Laura: Mm hmm.

Noelle: That’s kind of my willpower stance is anything you could do to reduce the need for willpower is going to be what sets you up for success long term. That’s all just figuring out how you work, what are your tendencies, and what are the decisions that drain you the most throughout the day, and how can we set your life up in a way that makes it so that you don’t have to make those decisions?

Whether that’s preparing a bunch of food on Sunday and making sure that you have dinners ready so that you’re not like I don’t have anything made so I’m just going to order from delivery or something. How can we set your life in a way that decisions are already made so that you walk home and you walk in the door and there’s already something ready for you to eat in the crockpot or whatever because you planned, right?

Laura: Mm hmm.

Noelle: That’s kind of how I encourage people to think differently about willpower and set their life up in a way that allows them to have more so that they’re not running constantly on an empty glass.

Laura: I think it’s funny, I don’t know if you agree with this, but I feel like being an entrepreneur and running your own business, you learn a lot of these techniques from business type of recommendations where they’re like limit how many decisions you’re making, and get all your important stuff done first in the day, and all these things that are basically maximizing yourself control strength.

Noelle: Yeah.

Laura: Which ironically I did my honors thesis on that topic in undergrad so I definitely understand this water model where it’s like you run out eventually during the day. At the end of the day if you’re trying to workout and you made all these other decisions, you’re probably not going to have that strength.

But I think the willpower question and then also what you mentioned about Gretchen Rubin’s type of work is really cool because I feel like working with clients I see this all the time where some people are just like give me the information and why I’m doing it, and I will go do it, and you don’t have to do any coaching. There’s no motivational type work that we have to do. I’m just going to follow the instructions.

Noelle: Yeah.

Laura: Then there’s other people who are very much like they just need me to be consistent, or checking in with them, or giving them accountability. I think some people can be both. I know for me knowing why I’m doing something helps because in my workout routine there’s days where I’m like I don’t really feel like doing it but I still go do it because it’s just twice a week and I’m like I can handle this and maybe I’ll tweak the workout itself. But I’m not going to necessarily just skip it just because I’m like not jumping out of my pants motivated to go workout.

But then the other side of things that’s been really helpful for me is having a one on one trainer I feel like not only gives me the accountability because I paid for the session, I’ve scheduled it with him. I mean he’s flexible so I could cancel it if I needed to if I wasn’t feeling well, but I’m not going to just bail because I’m like eh, I’m kind of tired today.

Then the other side of things is having somebody deciding what I’m going to do for me at the workout. Even if I’m a little tired, I don’t have to go and make all these decisions and be like what am I going to do today and what workout am I doing? It’s like I just go and it’s like here’s my routine, he sets the weights up for me, and I just do it.

That’s not accessible for everybody, I understand that. But I think having a plan in general that you just go and do and not showing up at the gym without having any clue what you’re going to and then having to make all the decisions about what you’re actual routine is going to look like, that can be really helpful too. Just minimizing how many decisions you have to make at the actual workout can also help with feeling a little bit less exhausted by the thought of doing the routine.

Noelle: Yeah. That’s super interesting. I just love hearing about what works for other people.  Especially in the context of when we’re trying to evaluate what’s going to work for us, I think a lot of people are like, yeah, that would work for me too. Or like no, that wouldn’t work for me at all. Self-awareness is so huge.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Noelle: Then when you have this self-awareness and you find that other people are just like you, it’s like hey, we’re part of the secret society that we have to know everything, and research everything, and we’re questioners. It’s just really cool once you’re able to connect with other people who are a lot like you and you could see other people’s tendencies, and see what works for them, and see things start to work for them because they have that realization.

Laura: Definitely. I know one of the questions we get a lot from our listeners, and also I’ve gotten this question a lot from clients, there’s a lot of people out there that they want to work out, they would love to be able to do more than what they’re currently doing, but they’re dealing with a serious chronic illness, maybe they have a significant digestive issue that zaps their energy, or they have an autoimmune disease that makes them more prone to stress or physical pain, that kind of thing. How can that kind of person who’s dealing with chronic illness or regular symptoms, how can they develop a workout routine that works for them and doesn’t either burn them out or actually harm their health?

Noelle: That’s a really important question. I think first and foremost you have to have the understanding that your body is going to be the driver and the decision maker in what you do and what you don’t do. While your mind may say, I’d love to get up to work out today, if your body is having a reaction or you’ve had a flare or something, that you’re not going to be able to push though and work through that.

First and foremost, your body is the controller and you have to be able to stop and listen to your body and say what is it that I need right now? What are the things that I can do today that is going to bring my body health?

If you’re feeling pain or you’re feeling inflammation that is associated with a chronic condition that you have, you have to be able to have tools. Multiple things. I like to think of it like a tool box. If let’s say you know that there’s certain stretches, or maybe you can go and do a little bit of swimming, or maybe just going for a walk is going to make you feel better, you know that the combination of x, y, z or maybe this workout or that workout makes you…and not even a workout, but maybe just a light stretching session or whatever, you know that those things are things that help you feel better, then that’s the things that you have to choose that day.

Then on days where you feel good and you feel strong, you can choose to do things that push you. Say you have a list of workouts that you can do from your home or maybe you can go to the gym that day. And so just being intentional with what is it? How am I feeling today? What today is going to bring my body health? And giving yourself a variety of things to able to do whether that’s nothing or something sort of in the middle, that’s going to have to be the attitude going forward first and foremost.

Second, I am a big believer in modifications. That’s kind of a big part of what I do and lot of my videos on Instagram and stuff are related to this, but you’ve got to have proper form when you’re doing a lot of these movements especially if let’s say you have chronic pain in your knees or your hips, or you have back issues, or even digestive issues, you’ve got to be able to move properly.

And when you do it in workouts..I mean it’s important to do it let’s say throughout your entire day, that’s really important. But you’ve got to be able to…I even think walking properly is huge. Walking in a functional way, in an appropriate functional way and having appropriate alignment can do a lot of things for you digestively. It can get the blood moving, it’s going to get your heart rate up, it’s going to do a lot of things for you mentally, and emotionally, and physically.

Making sure that you’re walking properly, that you’re moving properly throughout the day, but then when you’re applying a lot of stress to what you’re doing in your workouts, say you’ve added weight now to your squat or whatever you’re doing, or your farmers walk, you’re holding onto a kettlebell which is adding 30 pounds to you, you’ve got to make sure that you’re doing things properly and have proper alignment.  If you can’t, it’s okay to modify.

When you’re in certain situations I think it’s really important to have some sort of trainer or somebody that you can go to and say can you watch me do these? Can you teach me how to do these things properly? Or teach me even how to modify certain movements so that I can get stronger and work on my strength and fitness in a way that’s right for me and is right for my body right now?

Because I feel like a lot of people, especially when it comes to just basic movements like the squat, it’s like people just think it means bending down and standing back up. They kind of like reinforce these improper movement patterns which can just lead to chronic pain and stress, and can make things a lot worse.

There’s ways that you can modify even the basic movements like the squat to help bring your body health, to help it strengthen it where you’re at right now so when you do those workouts, make sure you’re doing them with proper alignment, with proper form, and that you’re modifying those movements according to your needs.

Laura: Yeah, I agree with all of that.

Kelsey: Beautiful, yeah.

Laura: I know I’ve mentioned that I work with a trainer and I think Kelsey, you’re at a strength and conditioning facility, right?

Kelsey: Yeah. I have a coach.

Noelle: Oh good.

Laura: We both have coaches and a lot of the work that we do personally on our fitness does require learning from an expert and working with an expert to make sure that we’re doing things that are appropriate for our bodies. Both of us have our own health issues that we deal with and trying to learn how to workout in a way that not only gets us where we want to be with our health and fitness goals, but also is preventing any of those problems that can come from poor form, or not the right amount of movement, or just all the different things that can kind of go wrong when you’re doing it by yourself.

For those people that don’t have a trainer, I know that your new “Strong From Home” program is a perfect option not only for people who want to work out at home, but I know that it also applies to people that go to the gym. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about your program that just released in January?

Noelle: Yeah. This was a year’s worth of work which I thought it would take maybe four months. No, it took a year. I’ve been working on this for the past year and the reason I feel like it’s probably wonderful and I’m so gung-ho and excited about it is because I really tried to leave no stone unturned. It’s a comprehensive do your own style workout program that can be modified according to your needs, and your goals, and your time constraints.

It’s a great program for people who are advanced, but also I really am focused on modifications and how to make programs and also workouts and movements applicable and helpful for people of all varieties and levels no matter where you’re at. It’s great for beginners too. I actually think it’s ideal for beginners because being a beginner, being new to things is kind of a fresh start and you don’t learn things the wrong way.

I go over a lot of stuff about mindset, about how to set up your life in a way that allows you to engage with fitness that’s attainable and sustainable. Then once you’ve kind of set up your framework, then I teach you about flexibility, how to know when to take a rest day, how to know what weights to use, and how to know when you’ve used a weight that’s too little or too heavy.

There’s an extensive workout library and I do have a video for every single movement that is in the workout library, which means I spent months recording videos. But there are about 75 of them in the membership site. It’s just a one-time fee, but you get access to all the videos and I talk about how to do it properly, how to do it wrong, and then modifications in case there’s some sort of injury or something that is preventing you form being able to do the movements.

I feel like it’s pretty much got everything in there that you would need. Really it’s just a way for you to build the plan that’s right for your body and your goals, and set your life up in a way to kind of pursue fitness, and make fitness kind of work in your life not try to force your life to fit a fitness routine. It’s all there.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Awesome! I’m really excited to see this product. I’m very impressed by how awesome it looks. Like I said, I think having a trainer can be an awesome way to be motivated or get the right workout routine built for you, but for a lot of people that’s either not financially accessible or maybe they just don’t feel like that’s a good way to spend their money. Your program I think I less than the cost of two personal training sessions.

Noelle: Yeah.

Laura: I feel like for anyone who wants to be able to build these routines without needing to spend tons of money or commit to something like an expensive gym membership or something that they lock into where it’s like you’re committed for the next 12 months to this program. I feel like your home program is awesome and it’s also for all those people who are dealing with any sort of chronic illnesses and maybe they don’t want to commit to something that they can’t maybe execute on because of their health, and being able to do this very flexible kind of individualized program at home I think is a great way at least get back into fitness and then that might be all they need to do to continue feeling well.

I’m very excited for you, Noelle. I think it’s awesome that you’ve been able to put this program out. I just can’t wait to see all the other awesome things that you’re cooking up for this year since I definitely enjoy following you on social media and all that. Glad to hear how well you’ve been doing. For our listeners who aren’t familiar with you, can you tell us where everyone can find you?

Noelle: Yeah. My website is coconutsandkettlebeslls.com. Everything is pretty much there. Then all the social media channels. Mostly Instagram, but I’m also on Facebook and stuff like that. Yeah, Coconuts and Kettlebells is where everything is and then our podcast is Paleo Women Podcast which we had you on recently and that was fun.

Laura: Yes, ma’am.

Noelle: It was a good time. When was that? Was that recently? It was pretty recent.

Laura: We recorded in November, I know.

Noelle: Okay.

Laura: But I don’t know when it released.

Noelle: Yeah.

Laura: But yeah, that was cool.

Noelle: Hopefully we can have Kelsey on, too. It’s a great, I don’t want to say women’s only, but we have a lot of awesome women that come on and it’s mostly just between me and my cohost, we answer questions and stuff. But that’s where you can find us.

Laura: Cool.

Noelle: Yeah.

Kelsey: Awesome.

Laura: Well we really appreciate your time. For anyone who’s looking for someone who’s not going to make them feel bad about themselves on social media, I would say Noelle is the perfect person to follow. Go find her on Instagram and go check out her online program “Strong From Home” which is available now. We hope to have you on again in the future, Noelle. This was fun.

Noelle: Thank you so much guys.

Laura: Yeah.

Noelle: I really appreciate it.

Laura: Alright, well great talking to you and we’ll see everybody next week.


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I'm a women's health expert and a registered dietitian (RD) with a passion for helping goal-oriented people fuel their purpose.

I help nutrition entrepreneurs grow their income and their impact by packaging their brilliance into transformative coaching and consulting programs, and get crystal clear on their marketing strategy.

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