Spotlight for January: Linda Watson

Three years ago when I began this fitness journey, I signed up to do a trial month at this boot camp in Markham. Little did I know that decision would change my life in so many ways. Aside from the personal fitness I’ve attained being a part of it, and now the positive influence I share as a trainer at this boot camp, I have met a group of women that are so wonderful, SO inspiring, motivating and influential that I count my blessings every day. One of those beautiful souls in my life is my once boot camp trainer, turned friend, turned kickboxing instructor; Linda Watson. Enjoy her story, because like most of the people reading this blog she took the chance to follow her dreams and has never looked back.
Love you girl!

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Name: Linda Watson
Age: 43
Occupation: Owner/ Instructor @ iLovekickboxing.com

What were you doing before you fell onto this path?
I was working as a paralegal for the Crown Attorney/ Criminal

Would you say you were happy with what you were doing previously? Or was there something that was missing from your previous career path?

Fitness has always been a passion. I loved some of the people I worked with, but felt very unfulfilled

If you were happy with your current career, what was it about fitness that made you believe it was time to act on this interest & develop it into more than just a hobby?

Like they say “you just know”. I absolutely know it was time for a change

Had you had experience in an area like this before?

Yes, I have been teaching and training for well over 10 years

Did you have a mentor/ role model whom you confided in as you ventured into this new territory? How did they help shape your decision to follow your passion/ how have they shaped your journey?

Yes, the CEO of the company. I talked with him quite a lot about my dreams and what I wanted to do. Speaking with him killed any doubt or fear I may have had about this next chapter in my life.

Many books that I’ve been reading talk about discovering your happiness in life, and the easiest way to start is to look back at what you were interested in as a child. Did you ever play games/ participate in activities related to this field?

No actually. I mean, I used to fight (haha) but never took any traditional martial arts as a kid.

What were some of the challenges you faced when deciding to follow your passion & pursue this dream?

The only real challenge was the negativity from some people around me. People thought I was crazy to leave my career in Criminal Law and to open my own gym. But I knew what I wanted and what I had to do to make it happen.

Do you have any advice to other women who are possibly on the fence with following their own directions?

F**K FEAR!! (can I say that??)
Have faith and follow your instincts. You really CAN do anything you want to.

Looking back, is there anything that you may have changed that you think would have helped you get on this path sooner?

No, I think this opportunity came to me exactly when it was supposed to

Where do you see this passion growing to over the next 5 years? And 10?

Ultimately I would like to own 4 more locations here in the GTA, and from there maybe move home to British Columbia and open a few more there as well.

Where can someone find more information about your company/ career choice?

http://www.ilovekickboxing.com

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions! It’s so important for women to read about other women who have found success in the activities they love. Do you have anything else you’d like to add to our discussion?

Just to follow your dreams.

If you believe in, trust and listen to YOURSELF, you can have anything you want in life.

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SPOTLIGHT for SEPTEMBER: Hailey Wojick

Meet Hailey. This empowering beauty played soccer with me back when we were 12! I have always enjoyed her passion for life, and hilarious personality! Her light shines so bright in everything she does, but don’t take it from me. Read about her, get a taste for the positivity she breathes and let it inspire you to do the same.

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Name: Hailey Wojcik
Age: 27
Occupation: HR Director, Northern Europe for large Internet company

What were you doing before you fell onto this path?

In many ways I have always been on the fitness path, it has just taken me a long time to see it clearly. My day job is working as the HR Director for a large Internet Company (Groupon) however in my free time (yup, that means early mornings, evenings and weekends) I am actively involved in my passion. From training friends to teaching aerobic-style classes and working on my lifestyle blog Fit, Fun & Free, fitness is present in all that I do and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Would you say you were happy with what you were doing previously? Or was there something that was missing from your previous career path?

Fitness is the only thing I have ever “tried” at. In other words, I have always been interested in learning as much as possible about living a healthy, active lifestyle and have spent a lot of my free time soaking up all I could about how to continually push myself to be better. It was only recently, within the last year, that it became clear to me that this is what I wanted to spend my life doing. When I am teaching classes or lifting heavy in the gym, I am happy on such a fundamental level- I feel like I could spend all day every day doing it. That’s gotta be a pretty good sign, right?

If you were happy with your current career, what was it about (Your passion) that made you believe it was time to act on this interest & develop it into more than just a hobby?

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and I love the company I work for. In many ways I am incredibly thankful for the opportunities I have had in my current career as they have helped shaped my passion and give me a platform to make a difference in other people’s lives. HR is all about people, and it was only after working in this field that I realized how much I loved making people happy and leaving them feeling good about themselves. I knew that if I were to take my love of business, people and fitness and combine them together, I could create the perfect blend of the things I professionally love most.
However, given that I am not ready to transition quite yet, I am finding new ways to incorporate my passion into my working life. For example,

I am currently working on something called ‘Groupon Active’, a program aimed at helping employees find a better work/life balance by setting goals to help them achieve their aims in the areas of clean eating, exercise and general health and well being.

It is a massive project and is all very hush-hush. But I want to use what I know and love to benefit those that I work with as I know it can have a really positive impact on the business and the staff within it.

Had you had experience in an area like this before?

When I was Activity Supervisor at Camp Oconto, part of the job was to develop robust full-cycle programs for campers ranging in age and ability levels. While it may seem incomparable, I like to think that 300 girls aged 6-14 are the toughest critics you will get, so designing an active lifestyle program to aid in work/life balance should be a walk in the park.
More seriously though, I have designed several different programs for myself and friends over the years so building it out on a larger scale will be a welcome challenge. I’m looking forward to it!

Did you have a mentor/ role model whom you confided in as you ventured into this new territory? How did they help shape your decision to follow your passion/ how have they shaped your journey?

I have been incredibly fortunate to have two of the best role models- my Mom Lucia and my boyfriend Nick.
Ever since I can remember, my Mom has been incredibly fit and active. When I was about 5, I remember going to the gym with her in Orangeville, Ontario (where I was born and raised) and she would do it all- aerobics, squash, weights. That woman was a machine! And the best part is that she always made a point of making her health and fitness a priority. In my house, it wasn’t unusual to see weight belts, lifting gloves, squash balls and racquets lying around the house. Only difference? They belonged to my Mom, the strongest woman I know. When I was in high school, some of my guy friends were intimidated by how big her biceps were and a few even commented that she was stronger than their Dad. I didn’t realize it at the time but my

Mom set me on the path for a life of fitness. She taught me that it is OK to be strong and that strong is beautiful.

I hope I can be a role model like this one day for other young women (and men!).
But a special mention also goes to my boyfriend, and best damn personal trainer I have ever met, Nick. We were introduced by pure luck when my previous (and not so great) trainer suddenly left the gym, and I was transferred to Nick for my remaining sessions. I told him I wanted to focus on training legs because it was the area I had the toughest time with. And man oh man did he deliver! He developed the perfect program for me and with his help he boosted my confidence and got me wearing shorts- something I hadn’t done in years because of how much I hated my legs. Now that we are dating he still inspires and motivates me to be my best every single day. He has really been the one to show me that fitness is a way of life, not a burden and I love him for changing my life in that way (but I love him for loads of other reasons too!)

Many books that I’ve been reading talk about discovering your happiness in life, and the easiest way to start is to look back at what you were interested in as a child. Did you ever play games/ participate in activities related to this field?

Oh you couldn’t keep me away from physical activity as a kid! A competitive figure skater and dancer for 14+ years, every day of the week you could find me engaged in some sort of activity. Winter was dance and skating, summer was football (aka soccer). I loved it all. I was also very fortunate to have parents who believed in me and prioritized our fitness pursuits. For example, when I was skating competitively for Dufferin Peel Skating Club, they would get up at 5am with me to get me to the ice rink (which was a 30 min drive away) for my 6am morning ice practice. And they did this twice during the week. Their commitment to me meant that I was committed to my sports and I don’t think I can ever thank them enough for their support and dedication to both me and my brother.

What were some of the challenges you faced when deciding to follow your passion & pursue this dream?

I think the biggest challenge is having confidence in yourself. At first I would compare myself to everyone else in the field and feel that I didn’t stack up in comparison. But instead of focusing negative energy on what I couldn’t do, I channeled positive energy into what I could do. I focused on the small steps first- eating clean, lifting heavy, and working hard. As my confidence developed, so did my skills and

I realized that everyone is different but that shouldn’t stop me from chasing my dreams.

Do you have any advice to other women who are possibly on the fence with following their own directions?

Do your research and listen to your gut. If you see a future in fitness, or in any passion, make sure you know what the road ahead for you holds. Look into challenges that others faced, and what quick wins they may have had. Learning from others means we are not reinventing the wheel, but improving on it.
Also look for ways that you can infuse your passion in your current routine before taking the “all-or-nothing” approach. Start a running club at work or a recipes board where you share healthy food options. Finding a way to engage people around you without making drastic changes means that you can improve on your ideas as you go, so when you do decide to take the full-time plunge, you will have direction and feedback to help guide you in the right direction.
Lastly, look for kindred spirits. Read an inspiring article or see someone kicking butt in an area you aspire to kick butt in too? Reach out to them and build relationships with like-minded individuals. You never know when it will come in handy down the road and in the mean time, the support will be invaluable!


Looking back, is there anything that you may have changed that you think would have helped you get on this path sooner?

Success is a journey, and it takes time to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. Don’t beat yourself up for not getting it right the first…or even tenth time. I think I have been really hard on myself over the years as I have struggled with my own personal motivation and will-power. Looking back, I wish I would have saved myself a couple of guilt trips on the way. However, I do know that everything I have gone through has contributed to who I am today, and that in order to appreciate the good moments in life, you need to experience the bad. I always try to remember this when I hit a rough patch on my journey to success.

Where do you see this passion growing to over the next 5 years? And 10?

Nick and I have plans to open our own fitness-focused business within the next 5 years. However, given the nature of the business and the unique value proposition of it, I can’t disclose too much. However, I can confirm it will be a combination of our greatest loves and it will be different from the majority of what currently exists in the market place.
Fitness is our life, our passion. We want to spend the rest of our lives doing what we love most in this world. And while we are waiting to officially launch, we are using all of our free time planning and preparing!

Where can someone find more information about your company/ career choice?

Right now we are in the initial planning stages, but if you want to check-in on my journey, check out Fit, Fun & Free (http://fitfunandfree.com/) where you will find updates on my adventures, clean eats and training recommendations. This will also keep you up to date on future plans so be sure to check back and see what is in store for us over the next 18 months!

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“I think you’re having a mid-twenties life crisis”

So the other day my husband accused me of having a mid-twenties life crisis!

haha, and to be honest– the more that I thought about it, I don’t think he’s too off track.

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See, here’s the thing. I’m happily married, fresh into a new house, career getting officially started in September, great second career with fitness, and loads of favorable pass times to keep me busy. The next thing on my life agenda (and trust me, I HAVE a life agenda) is when to start our family. Yes, most of the people I talk to respond the same way: ENJOY yourself, DON’T RUSH, Kids are GREAT– but it changes everything. All valid points, but guess what?

I’m okay with this.

So then, why might my beloved hubby accuse me of this mid-twenties crisis?

Well, lately all I’ve wanted to do is get a new tattoo. Actually, TWO tattoos. Not large ones, I already have two small ones but I can’t stop thinking about placements, designs, and getting together with friends to do it! The first one I want will directly relate to my personality & the love of being happy & free. The second one I want to connect to my love for fitness & health.

Besides the tattoo obsession at the moment, I’ve found myself taking an interest in drinking more alcohol than usual. Not excessively, but if you knew Jeremy & I, you would know that it’s not something that we frequently do!

I’ve come to the realization that these new interests in my life may quite possibly correlate to the fact that maybe this time next year I won’t be able to participate in any of these events!

SO then, to a degree, I’m definitely having a mid-twenties crisis– which I don’t think is a bad thing! I’m ready to move forward and keep advancing in my life with my husband, so perhaps I’m looking at this summer as my last “fling”!

I think it’s important to recognize these life changes, and embrace them. So while I titled this post about my “crisis” I want to suggest that it really is nothing but positive changes moving forward. These are healthy & exciting responses to me accepting the next phases in my life, and marking a few permanent lifestyle choices on my body before my body changes!

Now now, no one needs to get the wrong idea here. Don’t expect the “we’re pregnant” post ANY TIME SOON.

I just want to put out there that I’ve recognized the change within myself, and the small impulsive behaviors that I have mulled over enough to know that my they will not be regretted! And perhaps, there’s a small piece of you, my readers who have gone through- or are going through something similar in your own lives! It may not directly correlate to having a baby, or starting a family… but I’m sure there’s been a time in your life with big change and you felt like there were some impulsive decisions made along the way while you figured out your next move.

Take a moment to embrace those decisions, and know that those impulsive “blips” along the way is what makes the road ahead SO much more exciting!

Have a great night 🙂

Workouts, Nutrition & Determination: A Recount of My First Fitness Photoshoot!

You’re going to have professional shots- some with just a sports bra- oh and make sure you have a bikini because you’ll do those ones too

Yeeeaah. The idea of having shots wearing (or really.. NOT wearing) particular items scared the crap out of me. I don’t care how big, small, tall, thin, square, pear, apple or plum you are… EVERYONE has their areas which make them cringe. Mine, has always been my stomach.

When I was first approached to do this photo shoot, there was no doubt in my mind that this was the push I need to take my fitness to the next level. After our wedding in July, I had plateaued. That’s not to say I was unhappy where my body and fitness levels had reached– I actually was super pumped for my results! I just knew that I was ready to challenge the old Steph.

The Steph that had accepted sitting down & crossing her arms over her stomach. The Steph that never really believed having VISUAL abdominal muscles was an accomplishment she could attain.

And so, I graciously accepted the challenge. And my 3 month body transformation began!

I want to put something out there.

I am not a full time personal trainer, nor do I have a lot of free time to devote to working out & being on a strict nutrition plan. My usual day consists of me being extremely busy… so Murphy’s Law… multiple areas of my life fall into place at once.

The final 2-3 weeks before the shoot (which happened on May 11th) I finally got into the school board for teaching. As most of you probably know, adjusting to a new job with a new morning schedule/ routine is exhausting enough! Factor in that I had a course for Personal Training over the course of 2 weekends, I train between 5 & 7 boot camp classes a week on TOP of the full working days I’m putting in, I tutor between 2-4 hours one NIGHT a week, we’re MOVING so we’re continually packing, annnd just for kicks how about we toss in Kickboxing at two different facilities, and my own personal workout sessions at the gym! (And– HUBBY?? haha I swear, I don’t forget about hubby!!)

NONE of those are excuses. They are reality. And that– my friends– is life.

LIFE will always get in the way! If you can STILL achieve results despite all that life will throw at you, THAT is the true testament to your health, and to your dedication to succeed.

So, while I know that I can still get myself further along– I am DAMN proud of how these pictures turned out. Not only do I have multiple bikini pictures I am proud of, I have fitness shots that demonstrate the strength that I have built in the last two years. And, on top of all that– I proved to myself that while I am damn busy at the moment, I didn’t let it get in the way of continuing on my path towards maintaining a healthy & active lifestyle.

It’s possible for anyone to do this. So before you sit back and start with the “Yeah– but you don’t have kids, or _____, or _____,” you can put in ANY excuse that you feel makes you the exception to making changes in your own life but let me tell you this:

The only person you are kidding, is yourself.

I’m not here to compare myself to you, nor should you compare what your life is like to me.  We all have stress in life, much like we all have areas on our body that we would love to “fix”. All I’m saying, is before you sit back and allow the busy days you have beat you, why don’t you step up and rise to the challenge?

At the end of the day, I speak honestly when I say that it feels damn good to look at those pictures, especially knowing how busy my life is at the moment. It’s a reminder that whenever I decide  that it’s time to get results, I determine how and when it happens. And, despite any distraction… I did it!! 323097_4215679170524_1747270089_o 919370_4222557062467_1783961205_o 920900_4222554902413_930026568_o 920982_4215684890667_2115775914_o 966226_4222549662282_1211942489_o 967183_4215676490457_419581716_o 976650_4215688290752_995252312_o 977349_4215676730463_1154164387_o

Working Through Struggle to Gain Progress

struggle vs progress

Life has a funny way of happening all at once.

I’ve been missing putting together my blog, and trying to keep up with multiple posts per week, but alas… life has jumped right in front of me. It has filled my days up, and created minimal “down time” for me to do all the “extras” that I love to do!

I have recently started teaching for the school board (yay!) which is DEFINITELY my ultimate goal– but these last two weeks have been challenging. Leading up to this teaching opportunity, I’ve been focusing my energy making my fitness blog happen, attaining my fitness goals, coaching others to achieve their goals, preparing for my certification in prenatal & postnatal training, Oh yes… and sneaking in some time with hubby when I can!

The juggling act is little tricky at the moment. But, I keep telling myself to take it in stride, embrace the positive direction my life is going and know that once I iron out the kinks… I’ll find my groove again!

In some ways, I feel like I’ve been letting people down… not replying immediately to emails, checking in with clients to see how their progress is going. So I guess this is a small attempt at an apology for anyone who has noticed my disappearance.

However, I also want to put it out there:

In life, you make goals. On your journey to getting there, you’ll hit bumps and detours but you must keep focused on what you really want. ONCE you get there, you’ll face the biggest challenge of all:

MAINTAINING the GOAL.

There will be tests to see if this is what you REALLY want, and if it is, how badly are you going to work in order to keep it?

DO NOT LET THOSE TESTS BEAT YOU.

Each time you push through, take a breath and keep on working– you are getting stronger, and proving that you deserve what you want.

That’s all for today my friends, have a wonderful day… time for me to take on the day and prove that yeah… I’m busy as hell these days, but I’ll get through it, and at the end of the day– (and hubby can attest to this)
I ALWAYS FINISH THE TASK. I ALWAYS GET WHAT I WANT.