Ask-me-anything A Lady Goes West Advice Corner: fifth edition

It’s back! Three years ago, I did a series of “ask-me-anything” posts, and they went over well. It’s definitely time for another edition. 

I asked you to submit questions about any topic, and I’m sharing my honest opinions and answers below. Remember, what I think, say, write and feel is just my personal take. What’s best for you is something that only you can figure out with trial and error in your own life. If you don’t agree with me, read this, file it away and move on with your day (no need for negativity up in this space). But if you have something nice to share, give me a shout in the comments or send me an Instagram DM, because I love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading, friend. Enjoy …

Ask-me-anything A Lady Goes West Advice Corner: fifth edition

Ask-me-anything A Lady Goes West Advice Corner fifth edition by A Lady Goes West

Relationship to self

Question: How do you navigate body image?

This was the most popular question I received! And I can see why, body image is a big deal. Every single person in the world has a body image. And your body image can change depending on the day.

I’m no stranger to body image issues, and there are plenty of times (regularly), where I’m not feeling good about how I look. I try not to stand in the mirror and pick myself apart (in fact, I don’t allow myself to do this, because I’ve found from experience that it’s not a worthy exercise). I’m in the fitness world, so I’m surrounded by super-fit people all the time, and often, I compare myself and see the things about my body that aren’t quite how I want them to be, nor how I think they should be for the role that I play. It’s natural, it’s normal, and it happens to us all. And well, it sucks. But, it can be improved.

Here’s what I do and what I would recommend you can try to feel better in your own skin …

Do your best to feel good health-wise. When I feel rested, strong and healthy, I naturally feel better about how I look. If you’re constantly tired and run down, it’s much easier to fall down the rabbit hole of worrying about your imperfections. And this sounds simple, but it’s my number-one tip. When you exercise, get a good night of sleep and fuel yourself well, you are in a much better position to look in the mirror and feel good about what you see — no matter what that is.

Do your best to take care of yourself every single day with healthy routines. I’m a creature of habit, and I fit in my short daily meditations, my morning supplements, my foam rolling, my recovery, my exercise, my showers and my skincare every single day. These little acts make me feel well cared for. And once again, when you feel good, you’re more positive about everything. If you go all day without brushing your hair or brushing your teeth — when you look in the mirror, it’s going to be much harder to be happy with what you see.

Walking outside by A Lady Goes West

(Here’s my hat.)

Dress to fit your body type. Not the body type you used to have or want to have. Are you still trying to stuff yourself into super-old jeans that just aren’t going to work any longer? If so, that’s on you. Over the years, body shapes change, styles change. And instead of holding onto what you used to love to wear, if it’s no longer serving you, ditch it. I’ve moved up a size of jeans over the last couple of years, and so I had to get new jeans. No biggie. Especially if you’ve gone through pregnancy and postpartum, you have to realize that your body will naturally change. This change doesn’t have to be bad either. Buy the clothes that fit and flatter what you’ve got right now, and it does a world of difference for how you feel.

Focus on your performance more than your aesthetics. Are you strong? Are you fast? Can you carry a baby, push a grocery cart and talk on the phone at the same time? If you’re rocking a healthy body that can truly perform in your life, that’s awesome. Do you know how many people would love to be mobile, upright and on the go? That’s a blessing. We often get so down on how our bodies looks (compared to what we see on social media, of course), that we forget the really cool thing is what our bodies can do. Set your sights on a physical performance goal, work for it and achieve it (and the goal can be as small as walking three miles around your neighborhood every Sunday or as big as running a marathon). You’ll soon see that achieving performance goals can/will mean way more than what size leggings you wear. I’m sure of it. I know for a fact this works for me. When I lift extra weights, teach a great class or do something work-out-wise I’m proud of, I instantly stand up straighter and feel better about myself. And that’s how you get a good body image. Be proud of the body you’re in, and be proud of the body that does the things you want it to do.

Body image by A Lady Goes West

(Here’s my water bottle.)

Separate yourself and your self image from what you see/consume online. If you scroll through Instagram and see nothing but 20-year-old full-time fitness influencers posting pictures in their itty-bitty two-piece workout sets, you’re bound to feel bad about your normal body as a woman, possibly a mom, who has limited time to focus on exercise/nutrition and just wants to stay active to be healthy. Let’s be realistic, what you see on social media is filtered, edited, posed and staged (much of the time). You cannot compare yourself to these “perfect” bodies. They are likely not perfect, and they likely are very hard to maintain. You are not in competition with anyone or anything else out there. You are only in competition with yourself. When possible, eliminate things in your environment that make you feel bad. Perhaps you need to stay away from certain accounts or sites that put you in a bad headspace. Because to be the best version of yourself, you have to keep your eyes on your own paper, do things that make you feel good and strong, and be proud of that work. No matter what anyone else is doing or how anyone else is looking.

Overall, having trouble with your body image is completely normal and natural. It’s okay if you don’t love your body or appearance every single day, but with the intentional practices I’ve laid out above, I bet you can make some improvements on what you see/feel. Because, girl, your body is beautiful. 🙂 

If you want a bit more on this topic, I wrote this post about how to handle a changing body image years ago and much of it still rings true. 

Family

Question: Are you planning to put your child in a ton of sports?

This is a good question, and I’m about to take it deeper than you’d think.

You see, I’m realizing now, as a parent of a 6-year-old son, that you have to make a lot of decisions for your child, like pretty much all the time. When Brady was a baby, our decisions included picking how best to keep him alive, and that seemed tough. But now, we have to make decisions that could shape his future, and that’s a lot too. We send Brady to public school, because our zoned public school is a very good one, and also because Dave and I went to public schools, and we like the diversity of Charlotte public schools. And already, this is a decision that we’ve made that shapes his future. Sports is another big thing …

Ask me anything by A Lady Goes West

(Here are my leggings, and here is my top.)

I remember trying a lot of different activities as a kid and never sticking with any of them for a long amount of time, other than academics. Looking back now, I wish I had stayed with a couple of things and saw them through high school and maybe college, you know? I didn’t play a lot of sports (an incredibly short stint in track and volleyball, never lasting more than a few weeks), and I dabbled in dance, theater and then music for some time, but I didn’t have a thing for all of my youth. I wish I did. Because when you stay with something, you grow with it. You learn to roll with the punches even when things get hard. Ultimately, I’ve done that with fitness now as an adult, but I wish I had done it more as a kid.

And while you shouldn’t force your child to do things they don’t enjoy (my parents didn’t force me to do anything), I feel strongly that I want Brady to be in at least one sport while he’s in school, and I hope he agrees with that. Dave was big into sports throughout growing up and even played soccer in college. And Dave learned a lot from being on a team, working hard, showing up to practice and putting in a lot of effort. These days, Dave works in sports and has for a long time, and sports are important to our family. 

So where are we today with sports? Right now, Brady is doing tennis and soccer. He goes to a once-weekly group tennis clinic with other little kids at Life Time, and he’s been doing that for about a year. Brady likes tennis, but he doesn’t ask to play it too much outside of his weekly clinic. I’d love him to stay with tennis, especially as I’m into tennis now. (I wanted to start tennis for many, many years, and now I’ve been playing casually for about two years — the longest I’ve ever played a sport, by the way.)

Brady is also in his fourth soccer season through a local recreational league, and he has a team practice once a week and a game once a week too. Brady really loves soccer, and he asks to practice it at home. It helps that we’re now into Charlotte FC season (the local MLS team here), and Brady’s big into it. Soccer is seasonal, so we’ll be busy with it for a couple months, then take a couple months off.

Ashley and Brady at soccer by A Lady Goes West

(Here’s my hat, here’s my top, here are my shorts, and here are my sunglasses.)

Brady has also asked about playing basketball and football. I’m going to try to get him into basketball in the fall to test it out. And although we love to watch football and we’re now big Carolina Panthers fans, I’m not a huge fan of Brady playing football. So we’re skipping that. We’re not big into baseball, so that’s off the table for now too. As you can see, our parental likes/preferences certainly steer the decisions we make for our child, and I think that’s natural and acceptable.

Another thing that comes into play when we think about Brady and sports is time. Sure, I’d love for him to take golf lessons, private tennis lessons, play basketball and maybe even do dance. But our schedules are a little tight. With my one evening class a week I’m already committed to teach and Dave’s work events and games through his job, two nights a week of sports and one weekend game for Brady is about all we can manage — knowing that things will get busier as he gets older.

That being said, Brady is only 6-years-old, and I have no idea what he will truly latch onto, what else will come up in his life and what he will really enjoy. But I know that Dave and I want Brady to have at least one sport throughout his schooling career, and I hope that works out.

Honestly, I also think Brady is really expressive, and I would definitely consider putting him into a kids’ theater program in the future (which I believe he can do as of second grade at his school) too. We will have to wait and see where life takes our little man, and you know I’ll report back to you as it happens.

Beauty

Question: What are your thoughts on Botox?

Real talk coming right up …

Other than body image and whether we’re planning to have another baby (the answer is no to that one, friend), whether I get Botox is at the top of the list of questions I receive.

For a long time, I didn’t answer the question when people posed it, because I didn’t want to upset anyone with my answer. But now that I’m 40, all of sudden, I’m completely over trying to please everyone. So here’s my answer: Do I agree with Botox? Of course. Do I get Botox? Yes. Do I think everyone should get it? NO! Let’s chat about why …

Botox and Dysport, two of the most popular neuromodulators, are FDA-approved injectables that reduce wrinkles on the face. They’ve been around for about 20 years. To be 100 percent honest, most of my girlfriends get Botox or Dysport regularly. And although I wasn’t sure if it was something I wanted to do, ultimately I tried it and liked the results. My skin looks great from all the skincare I use, but I had some forehead wrinkles that wouldn’t budge, and Botox cleared them up totally (I haven’t tried fillers or anything else and don’t know if I will). But, here’s the deal: Botox is a toxin, which you put into your body, to tell your mind to relax your facial muscles, so that the skin doesn’t show as many wrinkles. Is it safer to not get it? Yes, absolutely. But we each have to make the decisions on what we are willing to compromise on.

Advice by A Lady Goes West

(Here’s my top, and here are my joggers.)

For me, personally, I exercise regularly, I eat a nutritious and balanced diet, I take valuable supplements, I sleep really well, I use clean skincare products on my face/body, I manage my stress, and I know that I’m in a very good place health wise. But, I also get Botox every few months on my upper face, and I dye my hair, with the twice yearly keratin treatment, and those are toxic things. Nobody is perfect, and it’s completely fine to choose a few “less than healthy” things you do, because they make you feel good. Can I be healthy and get Botox? Yes. 100 percent. It’s not the things you do every once in a while that make up the picture of your health, it’s the things you do every day.

However, if you’re unhealthy, have nagging ailments, are constantly tired, are dealing with a number of illnesses and issues, I probably wouldn’t recommend adding Botox into your system. While it has been studied a lot, it’s only been around 20 years, and we don’t know 100 percent what it does to our insides for the long term. I feel confident that I do nearly everything else well each day, so that can counteract some of the bad toxins I allow in every few months. But that’s just my situation, yours could be different.

As with anything cosmetic, what you choose to do to make yourself feel good is totally up to you. It’s not up to your partner, to your friends, to your social media followers or your family. It’s up to you. If you feel good with a little Botox, then go for it, sister. 

I would, however, make sure that if you’re starting with a little Botox, it doesn’t turn into a slippery slope of trying to “fix” everything about your appearance. I have seen some of that with people who are constantly trying to get cosmetic things done, and that’s where it becomes unhealthy — mentally and physically.

New lipstick by A Lady Goes West

(Here’s my sweater.)

It’s okay to look like a normal person with imperfections — even if that’s not what we see on social media. Wrinkles are a beautiful part of life that never need to be hidden, and I’m all for people rocking a fully natural look, if that’s your preference.

Moral of the story: Just like sweets, wine and late nights … Botox is something you should only do in moderation. And it’s also okay to never have it at all, because it’s certainly not necessary. What matters most is the healthy habits/routines you choose every day to support your overall appearance and wellness. 

Fitness

Question: Is doing BODYPUMP class three days a week enough strength training?

Great question …

Hello, Les Mills classes lover, who asked this one. First of all, props to you for taking BODYPUMP and caring about the frequency in which you are taking it. I don’t teach Les Mills group fitness classes any longer, but I’m well aware that I pretty much grew this blog on a Les Mills-obsessed audience, so I’m always happy to talk about the topic. 

First of all, you are correct that we all need strength training. And you are correct that three times a week of full-body strength training is ideal for the average person. 

Ask me anything strength by A Lady Goes West

(Here are my leggings.)

(For non-Les Mills folks: If you don’t know what BODYPUMP is, it’s a Les Mills group fitness class using a barbell. It’s a muscular-strength-endurance class, and it involves a lot of repetitions using a barbell or plates, with no cardio, set to music. BODYPUMP was the first class I was trained to teach, and I loved it for so very long. It’s a great class. It’s also one of the best classes you can take to get into strength training, if you’ve never lifted weights before.)

I fully support attending Les Mills BODYPUMP classes, because lifting weights in any form is incredibly beneficial. However, truthfully, I wouldn’t recommend taking BODYPUMP three times a week. I would, instead, recommend taking two BODYPUMP classes a week and adding in an additional day or two of a different stimulus of strength training — in a class or on the fitness floor (or with free weights at home). 

If you take BODYPUMP three days a week and you love your routine, it’s completely fine to stick with it. You’re moving, you’re lifting weights, and you should feel good about your effort. But, because BODYPUMP requires so much repetition of the same moves over and over again, you are possibly putting your muscles and joints under a bit too much stress — doing the same thing three times a week. Repetition is a good thing, but too much repetition can lead to injuries or stalled progress. 

BODYPUMP is mostly about endurance (high repetitions, using lighter to moderate weights), and to make progress, you should also have days where you work on true strength or power (with less repetitions and heavier weights). If you’re going to a gym with Les Mills classes or taking Les Mills classes at home digitally, I would suggest two BODYPUMP classes, with one Les Mills GRIT Strength thrown in or one Les Mills Strength Development. GRIT Strength is formatted differently to focus on power and true strength with heavier weights in a high-intensity-interval style, so it may accelerate your progress. If you’re not into Les Mills GRIT Strength or Les Mills Strength Development, I would consider Les Mills Barre or Les Mills CORE or other to switch it up for your third strength workout a week.

Les Mills equipment by A Lady Goes West

(This line from Les Mills is the best home fitness equipment around, and my code, ASHLEY10, gets you 10 percent off it.)

And while this question was specifically about Les Mills BODYPUMP, it certainly can be adapted to other programs. For instance, at Life Time, we have something called LIFT Barbell Strength, which is somewhat similar to Les Mills BODYPUMP, but it’s a freestyle program that we instructors create on our own, following a format. I wouldn’t recommend that someone only does LIFT Barbell Strength as their only strength training, ideally. But, I also know that if you enjoy a workout with weights and you’re committed to it, that is awesome and commendable. You should be proud of yourself for lifting weights and being consistent. It’s not a bad thing, but I do think you may see more progress with just two muscular endurance/strength workouts and one more strength workout with a slightly different stimulus.

Our bodies begin to adapt to the same style of training, and thus, doing nothing but the same thing means your progress will likely flatline. And as with most strength workouts, you shouldn’t do the same type of movements two days in a row, because your muscles grow when they recover. (For example, strength training on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays is a great plan, with light cardio, flexibility work or rest on the days in between.)

If you’re hyper-focused on making big strength gains, I’d probably suggest that you follow a periodized strength-training program that will require you to do workouts alone on the weight-room floor. But, let’s be realistic — that’s not for everyone. If you’re a class lover, and classes are the only type of workout you want to do, then the simple answer is to vary up the strength programs a bit, and don’t forget your rest days.

I’ve talked more about how to structure your week of workouts in this post. Happy lifting, friend!

And that’s it for today in our fifth ask-me-anything edition — I think we covered a lot. Thank you for being here to read it.

How to submit a question for the next ask-me-anything post …

If you have a question or topic you’d like covered in the next ask-me-anything post, head here to anonymously add your submission. Thanks for your input, friend!

Other posts you may like 

Questions of the day for you

What’s one thing you’re working on improving in your wellness right now?

What’s one thing you’re working on improving in your personal life right now?

What’s one thing you’re doing really well in your wellness or personal life?

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Ashley! I love your replies around body image and the botox question! I too have no qualms about openly admitting I get botox for me and whilst that may not sit well with some people, it’s my body and my choice and similar to you I live a predominantly healthy lifestyle so figure some botox every few months is completely ok! Everything in moderation. And what you said around body image is so true, I love to say to my clients (I work across a range of ages as a therapist) that if we can refocus our energy from aesthetics into what our bodies can do on a daily basis for us, it can shift how we see ourselves too! Hope you have the best week and these posts are the best btw 🙂

    1. Thank you for reading and for sharing your expertise with us/me, Courtney. I love to hear how you deal with body image with your clients and I’m glad this post resonated for you. Have an amazing day! xoxo

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