Walking A Mile In My Skinny Jeans

Pants, specifically jeans, have always been a little harder for me. I know I “shouldn’t” complain, but I struggle. This last winter, I was too scared to try on my pants. One day, I started to pull up one leg and I could tell at the calf that it wasn’t going to be pleasant. I stopped there, and I didn’t deal with my jeans all winter. I tried to face it, but I couldn’t.   In March, I needed to find something to wear for my birthday and I decided maybe I’d just buy a new pair. Many of my clients know that me trying to shop for jeans is just as scary as me trying on my own, and they offered encouragement along the way.  After a minor panic attack in a dressing room, I ended up with something. We joked, however, that the best fitting pair of pants was a size double 0, relaxed fit, curvy skinny jeans. What the hell does that even mean?

I still haven’t worn those jeans but I purchased them because they were on clearance. I had a conversation on a run about this with a couple women – we all range in age and size, but I didn’t feel like anyone was judging me. Many of the women in the group have struggled with their weight or have set weight loss goals, so they understand my fear of not being able to button my jeans.

This past weekend I had a conversation with one of my clients who also recently had to go jean shopping. While she has lost a lot of weight, she’s not yet at her goal and still isn’t comfortable in a dressing room (though who is). She knew it would take a little longer shopping because she didn’t know what size she was and that it still wouldn’t be pleasant because she isn’t yet the size she wants to be. To top it all off, she was in a time crunch. She ended up finding something and being in a smaller size, but that’s not the point of this story.

She told me that while shopping she saw the rack of size 0s and 00s. She even saw the curvy size 00 and had a giggle. And then she said the most comforting and beautiful thing I’ve ever heard as a coach. She said, “I looked at the 0s and 00s and I couldn’t hate them. I know them because I know you. I know real people that are that size, and you know what – I now realize it isn’t any easier being that size. You struggle just as much as I do in that dressing room. You are fighting the same battle. There is just as much pain and discomfort in the 0s as there are in the other sizes.”

Had we not been at the end of a run, and had I not been so tired, I may have cried. Her realization is true. It is very easy to look at someone else and think their life is easy, but that isn’t always the case. I think I relate to my clients so well because of my past and because of the battle I fight every day. I get frustrated when I see people post something about finally being a perfect size “4” or “6” or “8”. I get upset when they show pictures of themselves in their old jeans or pants to show how much weight they lost. Those pictures and posts don’t tell the whole story. Some of us have to learn to be okay in whatever size happens to fit and that happiness doesn’t come from fitting into a certain size or pair of pants.

I’m sure plenty of people have been inspired by those pictures of people in their old jeans that are too big. However, I think learning that despite major differences we are all fighting the same battle and can all help each other – that’s a much greater reason to be inspired. They say that before passing judgment on someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. Well, I guess we’ve changed that saying in my group. I will forever be grateful for the women who had the courage to walk a mile in my skinny jeans.  Thank you for not judging me, ladies.  You truly are an inspiration.


The Best Run Of My 20s

On the night before I turned 30, I ran the best run of my 20’s. It wasn’t a personal best, it wasn’t a race, it wasn’t a comeback run, and it wasn’t even really my run. At 29 years, 364 days, and approximately 20 hours old I experienced something that I don’t think I’ve experienced since crossing my first marathon finish line or Boston Marathon start line over 12 years ago. Joy, pride, and pure exhilaration! I started running when I was 14, and while I wasn’t great when I started, I spent the next 6 years hitting all kinds of running milestones. Between my first and second 10miler (and half marathon) is a 30 minute difference. I qualified for Boston on my first try, and would take another 30 minutes off that time before I turned 20. I ran cross country in high school and college, so I had a constant source of people telling me how big my accomplishments were. It is hard to keep up with that level, and so by my early 20’s I was fighting for every second off my times I could get. It also wasn’t a big deal anymore. I’d experience many running lows. There were multiple serious injuries, life threatening illnesses, and a few “we’re not sure you are ever going to be able to run again” moments. Don’t get me wrong, I had many great moments too; I ran Boston 4 more times, I ran a couple more personal records, won a couple more races, and I ran hundreds of races. But nothing ever felt like it did when I was younger. I tried to repeat it, but it didn’t happen. It was sort of depressing to think about running in my 30’s wondering if I’d ever get that feeling of being “good” again.


I’ve had lots of memorable moments in my twenties. Here are just a few.

That night, I just finished up coaching two groups and sent them to the track to walk a cool down. I came face to face with someone from my past who made me feel very … unsettled. One of those people who I use to try incredibly hard to impress, to fit in with, to get approval from, and it always back fired. One of the people who are so insecure in themselves they will put you down and hold you down. Very little was said, but it was enough to upset me. While I know there was nothing I could do to show my strength, my success, my happiness, or my health since we’ve last seen each other, there was an urge to find a way. While this person walked the track and all of my athletes were cooling down, I was still a little bothered by our two sentence conversation, and I wasn’t ready to walk away just yet.

I looked across the track, and there was one of my long-time runners. She had already done her own workout and then helped my advanced group. She was getting ready to leave, and I’m not sure why, but I asked her if she could give me one more half mile. She looked at me a little hesitant at first, but then shrugged her shoulder and took her backpack and jacket off. “I need you to run this pretty hard. And I need you to run past that walker over there really strong.” She didn’t argue and she didn’t question it. Later she told me that I don’t ask her to do something like that very often, so she figured there had to be a good reason behind it.

We started the run. I went out about half a step in front of her in the lane outside of her and she grabbed onto my stride. At 200 meters in, I knew this was a lot faster than we’d normally run this. We passed the person at about 240meters. Right after that she mumbled something about slowing down, but I told her to hold on. She did. At 300 meters, I started to get a little worried if I had taken her out too fast and if she’d be able to hold it. I didn’t want her to feel like she had disappointed me, and I knew she would be upset with herself if she had to stop. At 400 meters, I realized we were running a pace she hasn’t run in my 18 months of training her. It was right around there that my mindset changed. I was no longer focusing my energy on trying to show some random person from my past that I was good enough or strong enough.  I wasn’t worried about what some random person thought about me. I focused my energy on who mattered. I wanted my runner to feel good about herself, and I was going to get her to hold this pace until the finish. I realized how connected we were, and that if I gave myself and my energy to the right people, they would give it all right back to me. I needed to believe in her and trust her, so that she trusted me and believed in me enough to keep going around that track at that pace.  It was a dance around the track. Our strides were matched, and every piece of effort, energy, and will she gave to me, I gave right back to her. We were completely in sync. I had to forget about everything and everyone else at the moment; we were all that mattered.

And a few of my other favorite running moments this past decade.  A great walk down memory lane.

And a few of my other favorite running moments this past decade. A great walk down memory lane.

We ran that half mile an entire minute faster than she has ever run a half mile. As we walked the cool down and as she started to catch her breath she managed to get out, “Happy Birthday,” and I managed to give her this awkward side hug. We both thanked each other. Her eyes were watering because her lungs were burning from not working that hard before and my eyes were watering because I was seriously moved.

It might sound silly, but those 5 minutes it took run a half mile and catch our breath is one of the most defining moments of my life. It may have started with a wish and desire to prove to someone else that I’m good enough. To prove that I’m strong enough, happy enough, healthy enough, and successful enough, but in the end I got to take part in someone else’s triumph, health, and happiness. I got to help show someone else her own strength and power, and that’s what uncovered mine. When I saw it in her, I could see it in me. Could she have done that on her own or with another coach? Maybe. Probably. She’s a pretty determined and strong individual. However, I also know that no one else asked her to do that that day. I discovered my value in those couple laps. In pushing others to push themselves to a place they have never been, I push myself to a place I have never been. In always giving my best, they will always give me their best.

It may have taken a decade to have that run, but it was worth it! Unlike my first marathon, winning a race, my first Boston Marathon, my elite marathon start, or a regional cross-country meet this is a joy I can do any day I want. All I have to do is give a little of myself to the right people and be receptive when they give it back. We both ran through pretty thick walls that night, and it was worth it! We walked off the track, both of us standing a little taller.


How To Start Running

The first couch to 5k class I ever coached has been running for 5 years today! It’s easy for me to remember their anniversary date because it’s 2 days before my birthday. Turning 25 wasn’t easy for me. I was still pretty new to Annapolis, I had no friends, and I was on the verge of having a quarter life crisis. I started coaching them on a Monday night. While I had coached before it had always been for people who were already running, so there was a lot of concern about how I’d be able to coach a bunch of beginners. There I was on the first day of practice with them, depressed because I hadn’t accomplished 80% of the things I set out to accomplish before I turned 25, incredibly uncomfortable in my own skin, and had no clue what I wanted to do with my future. I ran with all of them; I ran back and forth between them, and I talked to everyone that day. I got to know them. As we talked about their fears and goals, I realized I wasn’t the only one a little skeptical and hesitant in life at that moment. I realized that I belonged with them, and that I could help them get over their fears and accomplish their goals. At the end of practice, I invited them all to come out for drinks with me at the next practice because it was my birthday. Not only, did many of them come out, but they bought a cake and a card and little gifts from our conversations (one woman bought me my favorite shampoo).  Five years later, I’m ready to turn 30, and my feelings are way different!  I have now coached hundreds of people to run their first 5k. I’ve coached further distances, and plenty of people to run insane personal records. I never thought coaching, especially beginners, would become such a big part of my life! Last night, I celebrated my birthday with a few folks who have been in my programs throughout the years (some from that first 5k class), and I realized just how much I have accomplished. I know this is what I was meant to do.


My first 5k class at their graduation 5k.


I get a lot of emails and messages (and random questions) from people who want to train for a 5k.   People always ask how to start. My 5k class participants often get asked for their schedules that I send out or they have friends who want to know what we’re doing, so I thought I’d address it. If you want to start running, here are my suggestions:



Join a Couch to 5k Class

As a coach, I think this is best. My community has no shortage of couch to 5k programs. If you live in affluent running community, do your research. Who is coaching the program? What are their qualifications, credentials, and experience?   Are there assistants, helpers, or mentors? Do you have to have a special membership or meet any requirements?   What is the retention rate? What happens if you get injured? What size is the class and can the program be customized?   Is there a cost associated with the program? What does that cover?  What happens if you want to run faster or further – is there a plan for that?

A lot of people need a class and the accountability. They need a place and time to report. I know that when I coach my couch to 5k classes, I can get all of them to the finish line. My belief in them, and their trust in me gets them to keep coming.  Classes also offer (sometimes) more information and can cover topics like injury prevention, nutrition, running for weight loss, kids running, stretching, cross-training, goal setting, etc. Again, it all depends on the class and coach.

My winter 2014 graduation class.

My winter 2014 graduation class.

If you live in Annapolis, I offer 3-4 couch to 5k training programs a year. My next session starts Monday, 27 April at 6:30pm. Email me for details or register online through the City of Annapolis: https://reg-e.annapolis.gov/Start/Start.asp

If you don’t live near me, that’s okay. Check with your local running club or store. Many of them host Couch to 5k classes or know of them.

Grab A Friend

Whether you join a class or not, try to start with a friend or family member. I’ve found that the accountability of a running partner works wonders! Actually, you don’t even need to wait for an official class to start, just grab your friend (and 4 legged friends work too), and start today. Go for a walk. Discuss your goals and put a plan together. If your workouts are scheduled meetings and someone is planning on meeting you there, you are more likely to show up and do it.   Don’t know what to do yet, that’s okay – there are a couple options.

Get a plan or schedule

If you aren’t in a class, find a schedule or plan! There are no shortages of books, articles, online programs or apps for this. Your program should be at least 8 weeks long, but I’d aim for one that is 10-12 weeks long. It is okay if it is longer.  Look for a program that has you increasing your time running very slowly and calls for 2-3 days of running a week. (I’ve always liked 3, but can get you through with 2). Most will combine running and walking, and that’s also how I coach my beginning programs. Your first week or two should be doable, and if it seems like it is too much, look for another schedule or guide.

Remember, most of these schedules are just guides. It’s a great starting point and will work for most people. However, they aren’t perfect, and they weren’t written specifically with you in mind. If you need to modify the program, go ahead and do it. Repeating a week or going back a week are both okay. If you notice pains or an injury, it may have been too much too fast for you, so take it a little slower.  If you need help, send me an email or message, and I’ll get you going in the right direction.

Find A Community

If you are in a class, this doesn’t apply to you as much right now. However, if you are following a program and running on your own, find a group. Whether this is a local group, an online forum, or a Facebook group. Find people who have gone through it before or are going through it at the same time. It can be online. Heck, some of my best accountability partners I found online. There are lots of support groups out there.

I’ve decided that I will run an online Couch to 5k group/class during my live class this time around. The program will start the week of the 27th of April. It will be 12 weeks and I encourage you to run a local 5k at the end. I’ll have more information shortly, but for now, just send me an email if you are interested: (Ash@ashleykelso.com)


I always say, “Just start!” Don’t overthink it.   The tools are out there, and I’m always here if you get stuck. But you have to start, just put one foot in front of the other and go for it! Plan a date, put in on the calendar, and work it into your personal schedule. Day 1 go for a walk, and run for a 30 seconds in the middle. On Day 2, run 30 seconds twice.  You don’t have to do be amazing or have an elaborate plan – put one foot in front of the other and go for it. Start small, but start! Increase slowly, and you will get there.

Best of luck! Keep me posted, and I look forward to seeing you run your first 5k! Ashley Kelso


Deadlier Than Rhubarb


Who knew this could cause so much drama? What could be an even bigger issue?

Last weekend I was talking with my friend who happens to be a registered dietitian.  We’re both huge goof balls, we’re both a little blonde; and while we’re both incredibly smart and educated, we both rely on each other for accountability and support.  More than once I’ve had her review my meal plans and she’s had me review her fitness plans. We co-teach groups that focus on healthy eating and fitness, but we know a lot about each other  so we bounce ideas off each other.

She was telling me about a recent beet dish she prepared, and I was intrigued.  I explained that I was struggling recently with my own nutrition plan because I’m bored of my usual vegetables and fruits.   We then started talking about different ideas to spice things up a little bit.  Here’s the conversation as we remember:

Ashley: What about rhubarb?  I saw that it was on sale … but it sort of freaks me out.  I always think it should be with the celery and carrots, but it’s always with the berries?  Is it a fruit or vegetable?  Can I just eat that like a stalk of celery?  Think I’d like it?

Joanne:  No! It would taste bitter as hell … oh and by the way, don’t eat the leaves, they are poisonous.  (We argue, I’m pretty sure she said it would taste like ass crack, but she also says I’m making that up).

Ashley:  Haha!  Good to know.  Guess I won’t be trying that one anytime soon.

Joanne:  Yeah.  It’s really bitter.  People tend only to eat it with lots of sugar. It’s used in pies and desserts.  It’s not really something people eat raw.  What about squash and zucchini?

We moved on. Later that day, I made a post on my personal Facebook page jokingly thanking my friend for saving my life and being glad I have professionals in my life.  I didn’t name the food mostly because I felt like a moron and because I thought the whole situation was a display of my blondeness.  It was meant to be playful not informative.  Two people asked me about it, and I sent both the link(s) Joanne had sent to me with the list of poisonous plants/produce etc.  I didn’t think anyone would really care about this post, but they did – so I decided I’d work on something for a future blog post that would address some of the more dangerous items.  For now, however, I’d leave it alone.  I have a personal rule though that I will not present food as good or bad, and I will never list foods to avoid or not to eat. Rhubarb leaves weren’t worth risking my integrity.  Things got out of hand really fast, and  I actually took down the “status”.   I couldn’t tolerate anymore statements like, “I don’t see what the big deal is about telling people not to eat some food you thought yourself was dangerous.” You see, I believe there’s always more to the story and that by simply putting up one food to avoid, I’d be playing into the social media craze.  Where truly there’s a whole bunch of hidden dangers that are more important to address than rhubarb leaves.  Further, some of us just need one little excuse to go rogue on our own health journeys.  This wasn’t my intention, and I wasn’t going down that road that day.   There are more qualified individuals out there to do that.   I got into a heated discussion with a friend who owns her own health coaching business about this.  I sent her the links too and told her she was more than welcome to share them.  She thought I was being too stubborn and should just share the links myself, but I wasn’t going to share a link that I knew would only get hits because of fear and a sexy title.  She shared it. It was ridiculous how many people opened the link; however, not many people felt the need to share, comment, or like it.  So, maybe I wasn’t too far off.

This week, I’ve seen a lot of articles and posts on “skinny fat”.  I’ve been purposely avoiding them.  This morning, I saw that 10 friends share the same link!  6 people shared another.  I read them, and after I was pretty sure I was dying of obesity.  Both articles explained that thin people have higher fat percentages because they have less muscle.  They said things like, “Grab a skinny person’s arm, I promise you, it will feel like mush.”   I sat there squeezing my arms. And my legs. And my stomach. (My arms weren’t mushy – they were either boney or tight …and I don’t feel like I’m mature enough to answer this about other body parts.)  I texted my dietitian friend.  Am I skinny fat?  Should I give up almond butter? My birthday is next week, am I not allowed to have dessert and wine?  Oh crap!  I need a glass of wine.  I can’t believe I’m skinny fat! How did this happen?   She made me do a mental check of where I was in that moment.  My cholesterol is good, I don’t have diabetes, I eat pretty well, I work out, and just because I don’t think I look good naked, that doesn’t mean I have a medical diagnosis of being skinny fat.  Just as I was getting ready to give up food, she stepped in, and she saved my life again.

I look at last week, and all of those who told me to “just post that rhubarb leaves are poisonous and not to eat them.”  I questioned myself a little last week if I was wrong to NOT share the links I had, but I realized today that I made the right decision.  The probability that I would read something like “Am I skinny fat?”, decide I am skinny FAT, stop eating to make sure I’m JUST SKINNY (and not fat), and throw myself back into a disorder I can’t control and has a pretty high mortality rate IS MUCH HIGER than the probability that I would randomly go to the store and start eating leaves I don’t know anything about.  With eating disorders having the highest mortality of any mental illness and anorexia being the leading cause of death for girls ages 15-24, I still don’t get it.  I got “emails” and “messages” that it was my responsibility to warn people not to eat rhubarb leaves and that I should share this potentially life-saving piece of information with the world right away.  People got upset because they thought I was withholding information; I was being vague, and I was risking people’s lives. Yet, I had 16 potentially triggering and life threatening links to articles in my news feed this morning!  16!  How many of you shared, opened, or read a skinny fat article today?  How many of you thought about eating rhubarb leaves?  I know where I was more at risk, so I’m still happy with my decision from last week and I still stand by my personal rules, values, and decisions. I still believe I shared more lives sharing this than I would have sharing a post about not eating rhubarb leaves, raw kidney beans, or puffer fish.

This is why I’m careful about what I post and I set weird rules for myself that people don’t always understand.  This is why I don’t share things with sexy titles to make a sale or advertise.  This is why I SHOULD NOT be reading things designed to make me feel bad about myself.  The articles were written by certified health coaches.  This means they didn’t go to school for this.  These skinny fat articles aren’t being written by medical professionals, and they aren’t being read by professionals.  They are just out there to sell something in most cases.  Of course, I am my own brand too, but no worries I’m not here to sell you rhubarb alternatives or to body shame anyone into working with me.   I’ve also learned that some people don’t get my sense of humor in posts, and that’s okay too.

My point here in all of this, be careful what you read out there folks.  I will be putting together a future post of key words to avoid and to look for so you can do your own research.  Until then, just be careful.  And remember from my post last week, before you share something – not everyone thinks like you, so not everyone will get the message you are trying to send.  Put yourself in someone else’s shoes before trying to get them to see the world through your eyes. Ultimately, it is our own responsibility to keep ourselves happy and healthy. We decide what we feed our bodies and our minds.  Choose wisely!

Thank you for reading! As always, if you think this was important, please comment, share, or send me a message.  – Ashley Kelso

death by rhubarb

I found this looking for a picture, and it made me laugh! I may purchase it!


Over Dedicated Or Not Medicated

A Different Perspective on some common motivational quotes and one liners.

We’ve all seen them.  Those motivational quotes that are supposed to make us want to get off the couch and go to the gym.   Those catchy one-liners shared on social media that are supposed to inspire us to put down the French Fry and grab a carrot stick.    I’m all about a little motivation but some of these are more likely to motivate me to throw my phone across the room rather than lace up my running shoes.  Some I just don’t agree with, and others put people down instead of lifting them up.  I thought I’d share a different perspective on some of these common one liners and quotes. Mostly, they frustrate me because they promote unhealthy behaviors or thoughts.  I don’t think anyone intentionally sets out to make someone feel guilty or bad about themselves, and I don’t think fitness enthusiasts or professionals are trying to inspire unhealthy behaviors. However, I  wanted to show that it is possible to have your cutesy inspirational quote do more harm than good.  Here’s my alternative view on the most recent ones that have made me scream profanities at my computer screen:



This is the quote that inspired me to write this.  I’ve actually had two clients tell me that this specific quote has made them feel bad about themselves.  It has made them feel like they aren’t “as good as” someone else.  When you are feeling down on yourself, it is a lot harder to get yourself to do something positive.  It is a lot harder to get yourself to face the crowd at the gym, the running group you may feel like you aren’t as good as, or to start a program you think you can’t do in that moment. My response was this:  “In college, I worked 3 jobs, took 20 credits a semester, spent at least an hour in the gym 5 times a week, and still managed to run 80-100 miles a week.  AND I RAN THEM WELL!  It wasn’t that I was better than you.  I was fricken CRAZY!  It wasn’t that I was more dedicated, I just wasn’t medicated.” Stop comparing yourself to other people.  You don’t always know their story.   Focus on your goals and your workouts.  If you worry about what everyone else is doing, it will destroy you.  And definitely do not compare yourself to crazy people!

regret2                                                 noregret1

All of those workouts I should not have done, I REGRET THEM!  I hate to admit it, but there’s a lot of them.   That time I was having heart palpitations and decided to go for a run, and ended up having to run right to the ER.  Yeah, I could have done without that one.  The day my hip was hurting a little bit but I decided to run on it anyway, and I ended up fracturing my femur.  I TOTALLY REGRET THAT WORKOUT!  That workout that took me from slight hamstring pain to a tear and out of commission for just about six months. 18 months later it still doesn’t feel right. Regret!  And on top of that, I don’t regret giving up a workout to spend time with my friends or go to a special event.  I don’t regret dropping out of that marathon a decade ago just because “I wasn’t feeling it.”  I don’t regret cancelling practice that random Saturday morning and buying my running group coffee instead.     Sometimes, it’s okay not to workout.  Sometimes, your “excuses” don’t stink; they are legitimate.  Some things are more important than that one workout – your sanity, health, time with a loved one, or a little rest.  Of course, if you are debating between watching “The Bachelor” and doing a workout.  Do the workout, probably not a decision you will regret.

getoffyourass                                      new diet pill

This one has never rubbed me the right away.  Achieving your healthy weight is so much more than will power.  It is so much more than just being able to “get off your ass.”  It’s nutritional, emotional, and physical.  It is finding a solution that works for you, and that solution may not work for everyone else.  I agree that there isn’t a quick fix – no single magic cure all.  Good for you if you were able to just get off your butt and achieve your goal, but for most of us it isn’t going to be that easy. Some of us may need a little more help or it may be a longer struggle, and there’s nothing wrong with that.   I needed a lot of help. Heck, I still do!  I needed the magic pills  to help my mind and body do what it couldn’t do on it’s own (they aren’t magic though, my physician prescribed them).  I needed the secret diet written out for me to follow (though it isn’t really a secret it is just personalized to fit my nutritional needs and health goals). I need the special shakes so that my breakfast is high quality, nutritious, and easy (though the only thing special about them is I like them and they work for me).  Take all the steps you need to find a solutions that works for you.  That person telling you how easy it is to simply “get off your butt,” probably hasn’t a walked a mile in your shoes before.


Seriously?!   Have you ever tried unpasteurized cheese?  Jambalaya in New Orleans? Croissants in Paris? Homemade pumpkin cheesecake? Or really good pizza?  All of those things, in my opinion, taste pretty fricken awesome.  What the heck does skinny feel like anyway? Is it confidence or pride? Or is that being so cold it hurts?  Or losing the sensation in fingers and toes? Or feeling like you are going to pass out every time you stand up?  Guess it depends, but can you really compare a taste to an image to a feeling? Personally, the best food I’ve ever had definitely tasted better than how I phsycially and emotionally felt when I was at my ‘skinniest’.    A different approach, I often ask myself, “Is this worth it?”   Is that meal or food option worth the calories?   The extra workout?  The risk that you’ll ‘fall off the wagon’?  How does this action align itself with my goal and my plan.  If it’s something super awesome, it might be worth the extra day or two working on my goal, or having a salad for lunch, or getting in an extra workout.  Maybe I don’t even have to worry about having good food or being skinny,  and  I can have my delicious cake and eat it too.  Anyway before I get too frustrated and break my computer with this one I will leave it with this, I try to remind myself and my clients that the goal is to be healthy.  To me, being healthy means being able to enjoy a good meal.


“Dedicated” is the word I used when I was defensive and in denial about being “obsessed.” Obsessed means you have an unhealthy relationship with a person, place, thing, or idea.   When I start comparing myself to the person I use to be; I have to remember what I told my client earlier, “it wasn’t that I was more dedicated then, I wasn’t medicated then.”  Being a little older and a little wiser now, I see this happen to people and they just don’t realize where they are.  They don’t have the knowledge and in the beginning phases those around them actually support the obsession as dedication.    I’m sure there are occasionally self-conscious people who make claims about dedicated or healthy people.   However, I think that this doesn’t just come from those who are “lazy” it can come from anyone with any insecurity, including those calling people “lazy”.  The way we chose to label something is important..

Be careful with your words; they are powerful!  This includes what you say to yourself.  If these motivational quotes work for you, go ahead and use them.  However, if you use them to beat yourself up, try something else.  If you do find yourself inspiring, teaching, coaching, or motivating others, please remember that those of us who see the world a little differently may not get the message you are trying to send.   Those of us who may be a little over dedicated, under medicated, self-conscious, a little more sensitive, take things too literally, or need a little more explanation than a simple one liner, let’s  take these quotes off of our fridges and our cell phone and lap top screens. Replace it with something that truly inspires you to be the best version of yourself! – Ashley Kelso



An Indecisive Strength

I have a theory that we all have a finite number of important decisions we can make each day. If you’ve ever uttered the words “I cannot decide what to have for dinner,” maybe you’ll agree. It’s taken me awhile to realize that I’m not the best person to make decisions for myself sometimes. This is why I keep a long list of experts by my side. In the past, I used this as a reason to beat myself up; it was another sign that I wasn’t good enough. However, I’ve come to see that it’s actually a sign of my strength and power.

A couple weeks ago, I was given a choice in my own health. I was asked if I felt like I needed an appointment the next week or if I felt like I could go 2 weeks. I honestly didn’t know; I didn’t feel confident making the decision. I left with instructions to call if I thought I needed it, but I knew I wasn’t ready to think about this. That same night, I had runners doing a ladder workout where I made an interval optional since I have a wide range of abilities. I explained this to one of the women, and it caused a little panic. “I don’t understand why it’s optional. Should I do it? Is this workout supposed to suck? Why are you giving me this option? What degree of suck determines if I should not do that one interval?” I realized in that moment she felt the way I had earlier, and I had to make the decision for her. I had her run the interval because she is one of my more experienced runners; she rocked the workout. I was later given an appointment for the next week, and didn’t have to decide. Sometimes, while we may be ready for the exercise,  we may not be ready for the decision making process.  We need the hand holding, the push, and the direction. There’s nothing wrong with that.

My last trip to the dietitian included written instructions to leave the office and put air in my tire.  Some days,  I need very clear direction.  I was also reminded that people rely on me for my expert advice and encouragement; it's okay that I need to lean on others sometimes.

My last trip to the dietitian included written instructions to leave the office and put air in my tire. Some days, I need very clear direction. I was also reminded that people rely on me for my expert advice and encouragement; it’s okay that I need to lean on others sometimes.

I make decisions for other people all day every day. I write plans to help people reach their goal weight, achieve their health/fitness goals, or run personal records.  They ask me for advice on a regular basis. I know a lot about nutrition, health, weight, and fitness.  However,  just last week I needed help writing my own nutrition plan for a couple days because I couldn’t do it on my own. At first, I was frustrated that I was stuck, but I realized that in this situation it was okay that I reach out to someone who could take a less subjective view. Someone who could give me a plan to follow so I could free up some space in my mind for other decisions. Someone who could make a list for the store so I could make a list of my business goals. Someone who would use their superpowers to analyze my progress and adapt the plan so I could focus my energy on my own super powers. Coming to realize that it wasn’t a character flaw that I couldn’t make basic decisions did not come easy. It helped paying attention to those around me.

I realized how amazing my clients are. I’m not just saying that! My clients are powerful people who if I knew what they did before I started working with them, I’d probably be too intimidated to work with many of them.   They are lawyers, scientists, executives, doctors, dietitians, social workers and therapists who have to make decisions that change people’s lives. They are mothers, teachers, managers, and leaders whose decisions impact families, communities, governments, businesses, and even our nation.  When they make mistakes, laws can be changed, people can die, and millions of dollars can be lost. When they make a plan, they often cannot just think of themselves as the impact goes much further than that. Many of clients are literally changing the world with their day to day decisions, and then they come home to make more decisions. People rely on them (like people rely on me) to make these decisions, so when it comes to something like what to pack for lunch or when to go to the gym, they can’t always do it. Sometimes we don’t know how to handle snap decisions without overthinking them. Other times, we’ve just maxed out our total decisions for the day.

I no longer take it as a sign of weakness that I sometimes need help writing a grocery list or my basic task list for the day, I know my strength is elsewhere. It’s not a sign of weakness that we ask for help in making these decisions, rather it shows we are strong enough to ask for help. It shows we are brave enough to ask someone to take control and that we give it to them. We don’t lose control, rather we are choosing to get in control by using as many resources as possible. We are powerful because we do all of this. We chose to ask for help. We chose to follow the advice. We are strong and powerful.

One of my most talented runners works one of those nail biting jobs that make me want to throw up with anxiety just thinking about it. Because she is faster than most people, a lot of people ask her for advice or ask her to run with them. They want to know what she is doing and why. Then during these runs, they tell her about what they read or the program they are following. They need her to encourage them and to set the pace (when they can keep up).  It stresses her out. She gets stuck between wanting to help as a teammate and wanting to run. She doesn’t want to be a coach on a run, she wants to be an athlete. She doesn’t want to have to make decisions for someone else because she makes enough decisions for other people each day.   This sometimes causes her to question herself and her own strength and training; but she isn’t weak, she is focused on her goal. Some people may see her as a little selfish because she doesn’t want to share what she knows or ‘coach’ others. I still see it as being determined and realizing that she can’t take on the responsibility of someone else’s decisions without risking herself. Her decisions are limited and precious.

Maybe there are people out there who know everything and can do it all. However, what I’ve learned is some of the smartest, strongest, most powerful people don’t know it all. Even the people we go to for help don’t have all the answers. So when you’ve reached that point where you can’t make another decision, when you are standing in the grocery store and there are too many types of yogurt to figure what kind to get; when the weather changes and you don’t know if you should do your long run on the treadmill, or outside, or if you should skip it; when your to do list is so large you don’t know where to start; sometimes, the best decision is to call someone to choose for you. I look at my clients who change the world, and I let them be my role models. Even they aren’t perfect. Even they need help. If I’m helping these amazing people make decisions every day to stay healthy, no wonder I need a little help myself sometimes.  – Ashley Kelso


The Power Of A Coach

Some of my youngest runners getting ready to tackle the mile.

Some of my youngest runners getting ready to tackle the mile.

I have been struggling with this “first post” for a couple months now. I want to tell you who I am, why I’m doing this, and what the future holds for my blog, site, and business. However, that’s a lot to do in a few short paragraphs. Today, I decided, that will all come – I just need to jump right in. Here goes.

In 4th grade I started playing “Girls Club” Softball. Most of the girls had been doing it a lot longer, so I was behind them in terms of skill level. I was pretty awful at first, and I would get nervous anytime the ball came towards me in a game or I had to bat. My first season, this meant they benched me or put me in the outfield where I was less likely to be a problem. I don’t remember much from that season other than the panicked feeling when a ball was hit towards me. My second season, I was put on a different team with a different coach. She recognized my anxiety, and instead of ignoring it, made me play and practice every position. She made me feel like she wanted me on the team, and the girls did the same. She always reminded me when I would get nervous that she was putting me in a position because she felt like I could handle it. One game, she asked me to pitch. It was the first time I would throw up because I was anxious. I’d only practiced it a couple times – and not very successfully. She looked at me and said, “Ash, we have no one else who can do this right now. We only have you. Don’t worry about throwing a strike, just throw the ball over the plate.” I did what she said. A lot of girls hit off me, but at the end of the game, she told me – “They hit off of you because you did your job – you got it over the plate. We’ll work on strikes later.”

Over the next week and (and year), I drew a square on a wall behind my house. That was my strike zone. I measured the distance from there to a mound, and I marked it. For hours, I would go behind my house and practice pitching at this wall. Looking back, it’s probably my first bout of obsessive exercise. I never became an incredibly strong thrower, but I got accurate. Using the rubber ball meant I had to field the return, so I became quick responding and fielding. Turns out, short stop was a great position for me as well. All of a sudden, I had confidence. I had a coach that believed in me, a position on a team, and I felt like I was good at something.

We moved again in 7th grade, and I had to try out for the middle school team (7th and 8th grade). I didn’t know the other girls trying out, and I didn’t know the coach. She knew many of the girls from field hockey (I played boys soccer) or P.E. class. We had 2 days of tryouts. For fielding, we lined up. If we missed the ball, we were out. If we fielded it, we got back in line. I remember being the second from last person left in that exercise, and that’s all I remember from the try out. I was cut from the team, and didn’t pick up my softball glove ever again. A year later, I had her for PE and during the baseball/softball segment, she asked me how come I hadn’t tried out for the school team the year before and if I’d try out that year. By then, I had taught myself that sometimes it didn’t matter how hard I worked, I would never be good enough.

I joined cross-country in high school because a friend told me about a couple cute boys on the team. I didn’t really “get it” at first and was okay sticking it out with my friend at the back of the pack. I was great at slacking, complaining, and faking workouts. I wasn’t ready to push myself to hurt … or to put myself in a position to be hurt. I was content at the back of the pack with my friend – there, I didn’t have to push myself and no one had expectations (including myself).  If I didn’t try, I wouldn’t fail.  At the first meet, I don’t know what happened – but the gun went off – and I ran. I ran hard. The secret was out and there was no more hiding, but we found a place I might belong.

My high school coach trying to calm my anxieties before a meet.

My high school coach trying to calm my anxieties before a meet.

My coach joked at the end of that year at the County Awards Banquet about how lucky she was the cross-country team didn’t have cuts. Really, it’s that I’m that lucky one. I found myself on the cross-country course. My cross- country coach would help me learn that if I worked hard I could get better. She saw potential in me. I would get nervous at every meet, and she’d remind me to do my job. RUN! I’d get stuck in my head about everything I thought I couldn’t do, and she’d give me a reason to believe I could. I would have bad meets (heck, I would have bad seasons), and she reminded me that it didn’t mean I wasn’t good enough – we just needed to adjust our training a little.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with numerous coaches and trainers – mostly as a runner. I try to mimic those who have pushed me to be great. Those who were willing to look at me as a person instead of following a written formula or guide. Those who had a way to make me feel at ease –and who taught me to trust them when they said I could do something. Those who made me feel like I was good enough but pushed me to give a little more anyway. Those who believed in me and gave me a chance.

... Races still get emotional though.

… Races still get emotional though.

I never want to be the reason someone walks off the track and never comes back or puts his/her running shoes down to never put them on again. Whether they are just beginning and aiming to run their first 5k or they are a nationally ranked athlete, my goal and my job is to help them see their potential and to push them to achieve it. To believe in them when they don’t believe in themselves, and to help them become the best versions of themselves. My job as a coach and trainer is to give my athletes the tools to achieve their goals, and that’s more than a training program.  – Ashley Kelso