It is with a heavy heart that we announce all acac locations will be closed until further notice as of 3/16/20. Please click here to read more.

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acac will not be billing members for regularly scheduled dues on April 1. For more information, click here.

Trainer Blog

Revisiting a Low-Waste/Zero-Waste/Plastic-Free Lifestyle

I am a firm believer that environmental health is an incredibly important part of both physical and mental/emotional health. Whether that means the environmental health of caring for our planet (we only have one !!! and the effects of environmental degradation disproportionately affects those living in low income neighborhoods who often already have to deal with decreased safety and comfort of their home and neighborhood environments) or the environmental health of the places we spend a majority of our time: how comfortable and safe is our home, how comfortable are we in our workplace, how much are we able to get outside and enjoy nature, how safe is our neighborhood?

Having positive and safe environments for a majority of our time is a HUGE privilege. As is having the time and energy to think about how to care for our planet. So today I wanted to revisit ideas from some past posts I’ve done about environmental health as a reminder to myself and a call to action for you!

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Preventing Injury: Shoulder Stretches for Lots of Time at a Desk

Try out these three moves to help prevent shoulder injury and stretch out the chest from tightness caused by lots of time at a desk, on a computer, driving, or on your phone!

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SLEEP, recovery, and your overall health

As some of you may have noticed, I am a big fan of the mind-body connection as well as recovery. You simply cannot ignore the mental and emotional components of health, just go-go-go all the time with work, family, exercise, constant new diets, and stress and expect to meet your fitness goals (or truly enjoy life, in my humble opinion).

I often talk about journaling to begin to delve into the mental and emotional components of health AND/OR meditation, breathing exercises, stretching, and myofascial release (foam rolling, working on trigger points with a lacrosse ball or thera-cane, or massage) to work from both ends of the spectrum when it comes to recovery, mental and physical.

And I’m also a big proponent of using gentle nutrition to aid in the recovery process as well as overall improvements in health, whether that means eating beans and rice with kale after a big workout to replenish stores of carbs within the muscles, liver, and bloodstream, some protein for muscle building and recovery, and leafy greens packed with antioxidants to aid in recovery from metabolic stress, or whether that means eating a big donut (or two) when your body and heart are calling out for some pure enjoyment.

But far too often, in our discussions of health as well as in our own lives (myself included!) we forget to focus on sleep. I could go on a long rant about why sleep is so so important, but instead I’ll just leave this link here to a podcast and YouTube video of an interview with Matthew Walker, Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and Founder and Director of the Center for Human Sleep Science.

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Somewhere between Au Naturel and Body Mods

This post is going to be a little different from some of my others, but it’s something I’ve been wanting to write about for a while.

I have felt for a long time that there is a very complicated set of pressures facing womxn, femmes, and people of all genders in our fitness and beauty industry but also within feminism and the anti-diet-culture movements. On one hand there is this pressure to look “perfect,” to look this specific way, muscular but not too muscular, thin but not too thin, natural but not too natural, done up but not too done up, etc. But there is also this pressure to finally listen to our bodies, to do what feels good and natural and stop fighting our instincts so much and to fight cultural norms all at the same time.

This all goes to say, that no matter what decisions you make, you may very well feel some sort of body anxiety about them at some point. You may feel that that you are too much or too little in some way, shape, or form, or someone may make you feel less than for the way you have chosen to take care of and present your body. This is all okay. It’s okay to feel confused about trying to live comfortably in your body after years of not accepting it in our toxic culture full of competing pressures. The main point is just to continually check in with yourself and ask these simple questions: Is this way that I am caring for my body for me? Does this way that I am caring for my body make me feel happy and fulfilled?

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Writing Love Letters To Our Bodies

By now, if you’ve been following along, you all know I love journaling. Today, I have a bit of a writing prompt for you; I want you to write a letter to your body. It can be a love letter, an apology, or it can be a gratitude letter. Just remember to be kind to yourself!

Below is mine:

Dear body,

You are my sacred place. You are my temple.
I vow to continually work towards better understanding your innate wisdom for healing yourself.
I will try to better listen to your asking for nourishment and fuel, your requests for gentle or strenuous movement, your pleas for rest, recovery, and quiet time for meditation, your requests to stretch gently or sleep a bit longer.
I will work towards leaving my ego and societal ideas about what health should look like at the door and more carefully listening to your deep and boundless knowledge…

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Live Your BeYOUtiful: Round 2, Starting April 22nd

Join us for an 8-week program of health coaching and training for women. The group is designed to foster a supportive community environment of like-minded ladies to help motivate you towards your goals. We will work together towards achieving health goals found to be unsuccessful in the past by delving into fear, vulnerability, mindset, language, and accountability in the coaching sessions. The physical activity training sessions will put these discussions into action in fun team workouts.

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Moving Towards Body Positivity and Body Neutrality Through "Acting As If" We Already Love Our Bodies

A little more in depth on what I mean by “Act As If” thinking because, as I discussed recently in one of the sessions for Pam Finney’s and my Live Your BeYOUtiful Health Coaching Small Group (more information on a new round starting in April and including more physical activity as a group to build community and confidence in working towards goals VERY SOON), this was 100% the way I overcame a lot of my issues with eating, exercise, and my body. It started off small by unfollowing everything on social media that made me feel bad. Then it moved to making myself take some time off exercise because I knew I was doing it for the wrong reasons aka to change how my body looked not feel/health reasons (only allowing walking around campus and yoga in my apartment for stress relief; NO GYM or running) and shifted towards eating foods that scared me to eat (gluten, dessert, etc.) for no particular reason other than I was afraid these foods would make me gain weight. And more recently it has involved actively allowing my body to gain weight, buying bigger pants with enthusiasm instead of putting it off indefinitely, avoiding wearing tight pants, and just hoping something would happen to make me lose weight and fit back in my pants (even though I was very upset about the new size internally), and, after all that work to get to loving and fully accepting my temporarily bigger body, THEN accepting the changes in my body as I recently lost some weight unintentionally due to stress not-eating.

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Coming Back Home into Our Bodies with Gentle Nutrition After Emotional Trauma

For me, that meant doing something that is deemed culturally “bad” like eating out for every meal when really this is something that brings me joy and ease when interspersed randomly throughout my week. My point here is that cultural notions of health really rarely serve us as individuals. You won’t see any cleanses or massive lifestyle overhauls to “get back on track” here. Just gentle nutrition. Listening to my body. Trying to hear that intuitive wisdom that our society shuts us down to. Coming back home into my body. Infinite love and striving towards body acceptance.

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acac partners with the Emergency Communications Center through Albemarle's BeWell Program

I went to teach a class (4 rounds so all shifts of the staff could attend a session) on using resistance bands for a full-body strength training workout while still in the office at a desk, as well as some key exercises to help with posture while seated or standing and simple stretches to help alleviate tension from a stressful job and lots of time seated or at a computer.

I won’t claim that I was particularly excited to be interviewed for the news 2 nights in a row by CBS 19 or NBC 29, but I will say that I’m incredibly excited for the opportunity to meet and talk with the staff of the ECC as well as the staff that works with Albemarle’s BeWell program.

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Self Care that ISN'T about Beautifying

Whatever it is that you’re thinking about first or seeing on social media that’s labeled as self care, chances are it’s centered about beauty, either caring for yourself by beautifying yourself or caring for your self and home by tidying up.

Why is this? Why is our culture so focused on beauty and looks that we can’t even take care of ourself without thinking how it will look on social media?

I don’t have all the answers, but what I do know is that I’m making a conscious effort to be mindful of when my “self care” is centered around capitalist consumption and trying to mold myself to a socially acceptable standard of beauty.

I encourage you, if you take nothing else away from this post, make a list of all the things you currently do or think of as self care, and mark which ones are centered around beauty or consumption. Be mindful, and make sure the choices you make are for you, not how they will look to others.

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Is the way you sit everyday leading to muscular imbalances?

Cross your legs. Now uncross and re-cross your legs.

Now if you’re sitting in a chair, sit on the floor and cross your legs. Or if you’re sitting on the floor, sit in a chair and cross your legs.

I bet that each time, without even thinking, you crossed your legs the exact same way. Try (both in a chair and on the floor) crossing your legs the opposite of the way you normally do. It feels weird, doesn’t it?

So rather than me trying to tell you to change your entire day from start to finish by brushing your teeth with the opposite hand, driving with the other hand, writing with the other hand, etc., I want you to focus on one simple habit that can make a big difference in imbalances in hip flexibility that can move down the chain into knee and ankle problems or up the chain into back and shoulder pain, imbalances, and tightness.

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Body Image and Gentle Nutrition Interview with Hannah Lowe of ROCKET Magazine

As promised, I have included the interview transcript where Hannah Lowe of The College of William & Mary’s ROCKET Magazine asked me about body image, body positivity and its roots in the fat positive movement, gentle nutrition, my experiences with my own body as a college student, my experiences becoming a personal trainer, mental health,…
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Collaborations with The College of William & Mary's ROCKET Magazine

Today is a bit of a fun one aka a messy amalgamation of things.

More recently, I’ve nearly disappeared all over again for the last couple months, with only a post in November about my Self Love and Self Care for the Holidays Facebook group that I ran for one month with fellow trainer and coach Shannon Johnson and then a post in December to introduce my new Live Your BeYOUtiful health coaching small group with Pam Finney at acac Albemarle Square.

This lack of posting is largely because of the time and effort that I wanted to put into each of these larger collaborative projects and partially because I am a BIG believer in balance. But, another reason I took this break from posting frequently on this blog and sometimes on Instagram during the last couple months is because I’ve also been working alongside Hannah Lowe from The College of William & Mary’s ROCKET Magazine on both a shorter article in their Fall/Winter 2018 issue and a longer article on their website blog, both featuring excepts from Hannah’s interview with me on body positivity and gentle nutrition.

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2019 Word of Intention vs. New Years Resolutions

Now, I’ve always been a goal oriented person and a perfectionist. These things have gotten me far in life, but they have also built up years of stress and anxiety that I am now in the process of recovering from and finding balance with. I can very clearly see the benefits of a goal over an intention. It seems so much more practical to implement, and it has a clear end goal and timeframe. These things are appealing to most people, but are they realistic with the ways in which we live our lives? Do goals surrounding health behaviors cause more stress and therefore physiological damage than they are worth?

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Live Your BeYOUtiful

I’m super excited to announce the group I will be starting with Pam Finney in January!!

This group is essentially the intensive version of the free BeYOUtiful You group we have been running every month for 2 years now. We will discuss health, fitness, and wellness from a MENTALLY and EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY perspective and work on a physical activity goal as a community. This group will meet every other week for 90 minutes over a three month period; each week the discussion and exercise portion will build on the last. We will cover topics like self love, body image, and self care. We want to make you fitter on the outside starting with the inside —mindset.

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Self Love and Self Care for the Holidays

I wanted to make you aware of a free Facebook group I will be running for a month during the holidays, starting next Monday (the 19th) to help you focus in on expanding the good and releasing the bad this holiday season.

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About Ellen

Every body is a good body, and my goal is to help you feel your best!