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My sports made me a more focused, sharper, more determined and stronger person than I was before.

It’s a mental game — the stronger you are the better you are.

— Kiran Khan, Olympic swimmer who was one of the first international female swimmers for Pakistan
In the newsletter this week, we’ve got booty-growing workouts, help for tight hip flexors, and a major  to emotional coping. Read on...

When Anne Mahlum started a running club for people experiencing homelessness, even she wasn’t sure it would work. But when participants kept showing up, she built it into an organization that used running as a tool to help people turn their lives around.

After building her nonprofit up to a staff of 48 and running it for 13 years, she was ready for a change and launched herself into building a new brand and community: Solidcore. She founded the boutique fitness studio in 2013—it’s now more than 70 studios across the US. Satisfied class attendees call it “a workout so intense that it hurts to laugh for days afterwards” and “more challenging than my first marathon”.

(Want to try a Solidcore-style workout at home that subs in sliders for the Megaformer? Check out this workout for core, or this one for legs and arms.)

Now that the business and brand are built out, Mahlum says she’s started succession planning and sees herself transitioning out of an operational role. What’s next? She shared in a recent podcast: “I’m good at building branded communities. It is what I love, it is what I enjoy… and there is definitely a political run in my future. I care too much about society, neighbourhoods, people!”

Sending you the power to take on any challenge this week, Katherine & Linda
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Whitney Simmons

“The only regret I have about starting a YouTube channel is not starting sooner,” fitness influencer Whitney Simmons admitted in a Forbes profile discussing how she went from unemployed to 2 million followers. “I let fear stop me from sharing my passion with the world. Start now! Go for it!”

Simmons uses her platform to share her workouts and daily life, including healthy grocery store hauls and fitness advice. She achieved her physique by lifting heavy weights, and many of her videos provide instruction on resistance training techniques, such as this “booty growing and quad demolishing” workout that demonstrates perfect goblet squat and Romanian deadlift (RDL) form.

Try this: For a cardio blast, try Simmons’ 25-minute no-equipment HIIT home workout based on dynamic plyometric moves such as plank jacks and skater lunges. For a longer workout with more strength work, this low-impact 40-minute Fat Blasting & No Noise Circuit requires two dumbbells and no jumping, so your downstairs neighbours won’t complain.
Dynamic plyos will get your heart rate up and a cameo from Whitney's pup adds an extra dose of cuteness!
Moving for flexibility
Can’t touch your toes? Hip flexors too tight from hours at a desk? Stretching tight muscles doesn’t just feel good—being flexible encourages full joint mobility, which helps your body function better. 

Our favourite resource for staying flexible is Sofabar, a YouTube channel focused on stretching. Providing follow-along instruction is Sofie Barnova, a professional figure skater with Gumby-level mobility. As you follow her prompts, keep in mind that the point is to gently increase your range of motion—not force past the point of pain.

After a day of sitting at a desk, we enjoyed this series of Stretches for Stiff Neck & Shoulders—after five minutes, our shoulders felt noticeably less tight. If you want to stretch out hip flexors and hamstrings, try Sophie’s Leg Flexibility Stretching Routine. Tight hamstrings can cause imbalances potentially even leading to back pain, so leg stretches are particularly beneficial for a functional posture. 
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How to use cognitive behavioral therapy to de-stress and achieve mental balance
Cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT, combines theories of how people learn with theories about how people think about and interpret events in their lives. Unlike many forms of therapy, its effectiveness in treating depression and anxiety has been validated by research. Another upside is that CBT, being structured and goal-oriented, typically addresses issues in six to twenty therapy sessions.

CBT was invented by psychiatrist Aaron  Beck in the 1960s when he noticed that patients were not consciously aware of negative automatic thoughts that would pop up in their head, but if they were trained to identify them, they could reflect on whether they were realistic or helpful. Beck was inspired by the Stoic philosophers, who taught that destructive emotions can result from errors of judgement—what modern CBT therapists would call cognitive distortions.

Nearly everybody at least occasionally falls prey to cognitive distortions (here’s a list that runs through the most common). For example, when we engage in “polarized thinking”, we may see ourselves as a failure at life when we fail at a single task, which really only reflects our skill at that particular task. “Emotional reasoning” leads us to think that feeling unattractive or unpopular is proof we embody those traits.. By unravelling these fallacies in our thinking, we can reduce anxiety and fear. 

Common interventions include setting realistic goals, practicing coping self-talk, identifying and consciously challenging negative thoughts, and tracking your feelings, for example by journaling.

To learn more about CBT and how you can independently use its tools to address your own cognitive distortions, Feeling Good by David Burns is the best introductory guide. Originally published in 1980, it has sold over four million copies in the US and is the book most frequently recommended to depressed patients by mental health professionals in the US.
 Nine ingredients you can meal prep in under two hours on a Sunday and use to create healthy recipes all week long (Downshiftology, YouTube)

 How to do a burpee with proper form to avoid injuries. Pro tip: don’t forget to warm up your wrists (Greatist)

 Vegan chef RainbowPlantLife says her make-ahead vegan red lentil curry is perfect for “vegan skeptics”, and takes just 45 minutes to put together (RainbowPlantLife)

 How to boost your gut health with prebiotics and probiotics—live microorganisms in fermented food like yogurt or pickles (ISSA Online)

  If your hands are beat up from winter weather and one too many workouts: Rhino Skin Solutions Repair Cream is an all natural lotion perfect for restoring your skin. Originally created for rock climbers, Repair Cream restores your skin without compromising hard-earned callouses. (Rhino Skin Solutions)
Thanks for reading, Fit Girls! We’ll return to your inbox next week with more inspiration and knowledge. Got a tip for us or opinion to share? Email us—we love your feedback. Enjoyed this issue? Please forward to a friend—your referrals help us grow!
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