I wasn’t born strong, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me...


by Alyssa Exposito

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Growing up, I was never the “strong” one. I was the “little” one, the “cute” one, the “small” one, the “short” one, the “doll-like” one.

So much of who I thought I would be was defined by physical characteristics other people assigned to me. But in all honesty, I never saw those things.

In my heart, I saw myself as intelligent, funny, kind, athletic, determined, tenacious.
You see, there is a difference between what is factual and what is the truth. Facts are objective. Yes, I am short, but the truth--MY truth--is I carry a presence that doesn’t reflect my 4’11 3/4 frame. So no, MY truth is I am not short, or little. My truth is mine, your truth is yours, nobody else’s.

I ran cross-country and track in high school and in college. I had, what most would call “a typical runner's body.” I didn’t pack a lot of muscle. I was a lean-bean. All I would consume were miles; I was never enticed by weights, and in all honesty, I found the weight room to be boring.

That all changed when I really had no choice but to build my strength up because I was left broken to my very foundation.

May 7, 2007 was the the end of life as I knew it. As a healthy and athletic 16-year-old, I never imagined that on one fateful day, out for a solo run, I would end up as a speed bump to an F-450 truck, which would then drag me 6 feet and leave me as an amputee prospect rather than the D-1 collegiate prospect that I had been.

I was immobile for three months and spent all of those days, for 8 hours, working on mobilizing, strengthening, and gaining back the weight I’d lost in order to hold myself upright. I actively worked to get stronger than who I was before the truck hit me.

It amazes me that women are not only exploited for how we look but simultaneously degraded for how we look. We’re given constant feedback on our looks, so much so that we often start to internalize the unsolicited comments. 

And that is why empowering women through strength training is so important to me.

When I’m lifting, I’m lifting up my 16-year-old self who was told she was never going to run again. I’m lifting up my hospital roommate who will never grace the floor with her point ballet shoes because a gunshot wound left her completely paralyzed. I’m lifting for every mother on that trauma floor who thought that moment would be the last she would ever see of her child alive.

When I’m training in order to lift heavy weights off the floor, I think back at how often my stature somehow created this illusion that I SHOULDN’T be doing so. Women have been told throughout history that they SHOULDN’T do so many things, yet at the same time, we’ve been carrying the world.

When Misty Copeland is told she is “cute” she replies with “I am strong.” When Christmas Abbott gets told she is “sexy” she tells them “I am badass.” When people look at me and say that I am “tiny” I firmly say “I am solid.” Meaning, I will not waiver when others categorize me as to make themselves feel comfortable. Neither should you. So when you come to class and I tell you “you are stronger than you think you are ” you will say  “I am.”

It makes me so utterly proud and grateful that so many women have confided in me to help them not shy away from the 20lbs. dumbbells: in fact, most of the women I work with at Uplift even demand heavier weight. That’s why I have designed training programs like Strength X and Build to help empower more and more women in knowing that physical strength in every way transfers to emotional strength.

What if I told you that muscle is built by lifting up the things in life that try to weigh you down? And you are what you repeatedly do. So you begin showing up for yourself time and time again, and when you are feeling heavy you will stand tall, chin up, with your head held high saying “I am here.”



CARLA’S STORY: Getting started as a trainer later in life and coaching women over 50

by Carla DeSimone

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I was late to the exercise game. I wasn’t an athlete as a child: sure, I was on the town swim team as a teenager, but wasn’t exactly competitive.  At the age of 30, married already for ten years, living in Suburbia as a stay-at-home mom with three young children, one day I decided to join a gym and start exercising.  And after one Step class, I was addicted! I became one of the proverbial gym rats and was at the gym every day taking step, spin class, and lifting heavy weights with a bunch of burly NYC cops. After a few months, I was really feeling (and looking) amazing. 

Fast forward eleven years to when my last child was starting middle school, and it was time for me to go back to work.  The thought of returning to my pre-children career as a Dental Hygienist was just not appealing anymore, so I decided to become a Personal Trainer.  How hard could it be?  I was already at the gym six days a week.  I knew everything (so I told myself)!  I enrolled in a Personal Training course at Hofstra University (The Academy of Applied Personal Training Education, or AAPTE).

Cue the reality check.

Challenge #1: at the time, I was 41 and everyone else in the class was in their 20’s.  I was kind of freaked out but I had already paid for the program, so there I was going to stay.  I also hadn’t been in school since  attending college nearly 20 years prior.  

Challenge #2: The actual science behind personal training was nothing that I knew anything about.  Luckily, though, I was enthralled. 

I loved the anatomy, biomechanics, physiology, program design and nutrition.  I loved our time in the hands-on labs, where we could put all we learned in theory into practical application on actual people. The biggest thing I learned early on was how much went into training and the deep responsibility the trainer had for his or her client.  I thought about myself and the workouts I did with the beefy cops: as I got older, I was really starting to feel them.  Everything hurt after my training sessions: shoulders, hips, knees and wrists.  Once I learned about how anatomy dictates the body and the proper biomechanics, I started to adjust my workouts and immediately started to feel so much better.  

After I finished the course, I was extremely fortunate to get a training job with the director of the AAPTE.  He ran a studio in an upscale Long Island neighborhood that trained mostly the over-40 crowd.  I was immediately up to my ears in training!  I trained four days a week from 8am-3pm and never even had a free half hour.  That major client load, while challenging, truly cemented proper biomechanics and form into my brain.  Over the years, I have undergone many other certifications that have really added to my knowledge base.

In 2013, my husband and I decided to move into NYC, a dream of ours for many years, and the time was right.  We sold our beloved home in the ‘burbs and moved into our apartment on the Upper East Side.  I had such a connection with my original clients that I continued to travel to Long Island for four years training them until I finally made the break and started training full-time at Uplift.  After my first interview there, I felt that this is where I belonged, even though I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t be accepted since I was old enough to be just about everyone’s mother but I have never felt anything but entirely at home here.


When I was a new trainer at the age of 41, the majority of my clients were in their 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. I will admit that initially, I didn’t want to train people over 50.  I didn’t really take them seriously.  What could they possibly expect to get out of training and why would they want to even come to the gym? I wanted to train women like me: in their early 40’s, and wanting to look good and stay strong.  Looking back, boy do I realize how wrong I was about that.

As my schedule got more and more filled up with these “older” women, I came to realize that they were vibrant, focused, and smart.  They had fitness goals that were different from the women in their 40’s or younger.  Of course, some of them were at the studio looking for a trainer because they had gotten a warning from their physician about things like osteopenia, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and/or elevated blood sugar.  Others came because they had knee and hip replacements and their physical therapy was over but they felt like they needed something more to stay mobile.

Mainly, though, I saw women with goals of staying strong, working on balance, increasing their endurance, and making sure they had the ability to get down on the floor to play with their grandchildren. Their primary goals didn’t usually include losing weight or changing their outward appearance, but this was a nice by product—as it is for many people—of being fundamentally fit and strong. As I continued to train this population, I really got an education on life over 50: the challenges and complexities but also the joys and triumphs that women face in their families, personal lives, and careers.  I gained a lot of respect for my clients and built long-lasting relationships with them.  

Of course as time passed, I became one of those ladies over 50!  One of the many things I’ve learned is that as we grow older, it’s vitally important to strength-train to protect our bones and keep our metabolic rate high, work on core stability to help us with just about everything, and do some type of cardiovascular exercise to help us stay in good heart health.  

The most important thing I’ve learned about about working with the over-50 population is training them appropriately.  From all the continuing education courses I have taken and all the training sessions I have given in 17 years, I’ve learned that the workout has to be safe, appropriate and effective and it has to be designed to accommodate the client’s structure, function, ability and goals.  Some clients are fitter than ever and can do incredibly challenging workouts. On the other hand, some can do squats with only a modified range of motion. (And, for the record, modifying doesn’t mean the workout won’t be challenging, it just means your joints won’t be compromised).  Like all different types of women, an extra dose of responsible training is what this population requires. 

Women in their 50’s and older are so very determined to take care of themselves, and are dedicated, committed, and fierce. Many have taken care of children, spouses, bosses, and parents and now they’re, as the saying goes, reclaiming their time


So I have had my heart broken enough times to know...

by Alyssa Exposito


We’ve all been there: some of US are in the thick of it, some of US just got over it, some of US think we may never get over it, and some of US never want to relive it. With Single Awareness Day (not SAD, though!) looming, here are a few thoughts (from someone who has been through all of the above) to make you feel less alone.

What heartbreak has taught me is that pain is an opportunity for growth, and the mending and healing times of life are actually a gift. 

After much introspection--and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s--this is what the pain of heartbreak has taught me specifically:

  1. Remember, "hate" is a powerful word. So when you claim to "hate" something about yourself or anyone else, ask, “What part of my heart is broken today?” What part of you feels the need to defend the negativity around the experience that will no longer serve you? Because hating your ex will sound a lot like cynicism and an inability to let go. And you know what that looks like? Someone who is emotionally unavailable. Let it go.
  2. As it turns out, the "ugly" truth about any experience is both beautiful and liberating because it frees you from living in the past or wondering about the “what if’s.” Now you know.
  3. It's ok to let strangers in. You may think whatever has happened will make it harder for you to trust others, but remember it’s ok to give people chances, especially when they don’t look like your ex.
  4. You won't always leave things better than you found them. So stop moving mountains for people. 
  5. Always have the courage to break your own heart. Remember that there are people who stay to nourish you, and those who stay to pick at the fruit. Sometimes, you have to lean into bravery and walk away from what is no longer serving you. 
  6. Shadow boxing your bullshit will leave you sucker punched in the face.  It’s much easier to play the blame game than to honestly say, “I can’t expect him/her to be emotionally available, if he/she said ‘I don’t think I am the person you deserve.’” 
  7. There are realities you will begin to come to terms with, some truths you are now processing. You do not have to rush it for the sake of others. In fact, take all the time you need, please.
  8. People are not a means to an end. When you find yourself lonely, don’t text that person you know you will not give your all too for the sake of keeping company.
  9. It gets easier. It feels better. This too shall pass. Trust in delayed gratification. 
  10. "Perfect" is a nasty and damaging word.
  11. There is no greater gift than presence. Actions will ALWAYS speak louder than words. If you find that every time you’re in the presence of someone who would pay more attention to their phone than the human in front of him/her, know that is the foundation of what they are willing to give you. 
  12. You are under no obligation to explain yourself to anybody. Similarly, no one is obligated to explain him- or herself to you.
  13. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. Sometimes they are heartbreaking, other times enlightening, but all of the time, they’re their business. At the end of the day, whatever transpires between you and another person boils down to how YOU react to it--because how they act or react or exist doesn’t have anything to do with you.
  14. People are like elements: some burn with passion, others pass like the wind, some ground you like roots, and others trickle through you like water. Seek those who compliment your parts.
  15. Say yes to grace.  Meaning, forgive over and over again even those you think do not deserve it. Remember, it doesn’t mean forget, it means freeing yourself of devoting all your attention to something undeserving.
  16. Unconditional love is one of the most sacred things in life. Embrace it whenever you can and allow others to return the favor.
  17. You can turn the leaf on all of your leaving. I know that it’s much easier to quit and run the other way, but trust that you are deserving to both give and receive all that you have imagined....
  18. ...But learn to love the sound of your feet walking away from what no longer serves you.
  19. Healing is courageous. It takes guts to be done with a wound of any kind. 
  20. Create your PAUSE. Reacting out of impulse makes you look like a bigger ass than responding ever will. 
  21. Keep yourself open. Remember, closed fists are harder to hold onto. 

Now queens, heartbreak or not, let’s raise our chins and heads up because our crowns have never been too heavy to carry, and never will be. Time to GLOW up. 


380 Days

by Leah Tubbs

“I come as one, but stand as 10,000.
-Maya Angelou


I take a lot of responsibility and ownership in the fact that I am a black woman born and raised in Birmingham, AL. I know firsthand the sacrifices and bloodshed of my ancestors for me to have the opportunities I have as a Person of Color (or, POC). 

The name of the article refers to the number of days the Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted before the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that segregation on public buses was unconstitutional. My mother, Harriette, went to elementary school with Denise McNair, one of the four little girls killed in the bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church on September 16, 1963. My mother was a preschool and kindergarten teacher for over thirty years shaping the young minds of the future. My father, Craig, marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Birmingham, Selma, and Montgomery and later became a school principal for over thirty years and a minister for over forty years. My mother’s mom, Claudia, had a college education during the Great Depression when segregation and Jim Crow was running rampant throughout the southeast. My grandmother’s closest friends became my grandparents as I was growing up. Catherine and Theodore Patton, lovingly known to me as Mama P and Papa P, were highly educated school teachers before the time of racial integration. This is my lineage.......community leaders who wanted to make a positive change in their neighborhoods.

I grew up being surrounded by well-to-do POC who never forgot where they came from or their history. I was constantly reminded of the psychological, physical, and verbal abuse towards the encaptured Africans during colonization. Tribes turning against one another made it easy for the Danish, British, Spanish, French, Russian, and Portuguese to plant seeds of grandeur in the heads of African chiefs to "work together" for the better good of their tribe only to enslave all POC. My husband, Shaun, and I were invited to Accra, Ghana last June to perform and teach some community engagement classes at three schools, as well as soak up our history and culture. We went to Elmina Castle, one of a few castles left in Africa during colonization. I could feel my ancestors’ spirits and smell the sweat, blood, and despair. I was full of emotions walking through the holding cells of my people viewing the chains and shackles that connected them against their will. The holding cells led to a slender pathway their emaciated bodies slide through to the boats which would take them away from their families to a new world of oppression for almost five hundred years.

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”- Mahatma Gandhi

Sanfoka is an Adinka Symbol of West Africa that means "return and get it" and is a symbol of the importance of learning from the past. I use my history and culture as fuel to create platforms for POC through dance. My dance company, ModArts Dance Collective (MADC), is gearing up for its third annual dance festival entitled Collective Thread on Saturday, March 10, 2018 3:30 & 7:30 PM at Dixon Place (shameless plug!). The purpose of Collective Thread is to provide a voice and a platform for artistic self-impression to those women of underrepresented ethnic groups within the medium of dance. As an artist, I began to notice that there was a lack of representative for women artists of color in leadership roles in the dance field and wanted to be an agent of social change to change a majority male dominated position to a more inclusive, accessible place for women of color. My hope is for more women of color to see themselves in leadership roles for their communities and in respected fields of work.

My passion for diversity expands to the fitness arena. It can be challenging to take a fitness class with an instructor who doesn’t understand your body or family history you’re trying to reverse or the fact that no one in class looks like you. Accessibility comes from commonality. POC share similar values, cultures, and histories that create a sense of comradery and belonging. I hope I can use my current position at US to increase the presence of PT and Group Fitness Instructors of Color through training and mentorship programs to provide potential fitness professionals a safe, open environment to grow and thrive as people and in the fitness area.

“No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half its citizens.”-Michelle Obama

I consider diversity through movement a part of my legacy for stronger, empowered generations of women who will never feel stifled because of the color of their skin. I want to be the leader my parents and grandparents were in their enclose. I hope I can inspire girls and women like my circle of fearless, strong, and tenacious women I happily call family.


The Offer

by Megan Eiss-Proctor

Megan Eiss-Proctor is Founder & CEO of Heddy Consulting. Heddy works with people and organizations to maximize the power of diversity and inclusion. From ensuring equal pay to anti-harassment workshops and fighting micro-agressions and discrimination - we help you create a more successful and inclusive workplace.


I don’t often have a “Celebrities… they’re just like us!” moment. But Michelle Williams’ pay disparity story struck a personal chord. Not just because we were both victims of pay discrimination, but because I think we both unknowingly played a part in actually encouraging the discrimination.

A quick summary for those of you not following celebrity news all that closely: Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg are two of the stars from an Oscar-nominated movie, All the Money in the World. The movie also starred Kevin Spacey until allegations about his sexual abuse of Anthony Rapp, among others, was disclosed. The director opted to fire Kevin and reshoot his scenes with another actor, Christopher Plummer. Obviously reshoots required additional time and work from the lead actors, including Michelle and Mark. The director asked the cast to do the reshoots for free. Michelle was happy to oblige. She thought the entire cast was working for free. Michelle was paid less than $1000 for the reshoot, approximately $80 per day to cover expenses like food, but no other compensation. Mark’s agent (who was also, disturbingly, Michelle’s agent) apparently didn’t get the “the cast is working for free” memo and negotiated for Mark to be paid $1.5 million for the reshoots.

There are many problematic aspects to this story - it is a case study on sexism in the workplace. Why would the director allow the discrepancy? Is Michelle sticking with the shitty agency that left her in the dark? Is Mark’s donation to Time’s Up (and a smaller donation from the agency) enough to prevent this from happening again? Each of these questions deserves its own investigation. But one of the most fascinating pieces to me is that Michelle offered to work for free.

Does that make her part of the problem?

I too offered to work for free - at a small non-profit I was trying to get off the ground. Later, like Michelle, I became the victim of pay discrimination. I feel her pain. How does the fact that she volunteered for the work (while Mark Wahlberg asked for a big payout) play into the pay disparity that later occurred? What does all of this mean for how we fight the gender pay gap?

In December of 2017, before news of Mark’s $1.5 million payday broke, Michelle spoke to USA Today about the reshoots. She told USA Today she gave up her planned Thanksgiving holiday at home and happily agreed to the reshoot.

“I said I'd be wherever they needed me, whenever they needed me. And they could have my salary, they could have my holiday, whatever they wanted. Because I appreciated so much that they were making this massive effort,” Michelle said.

Michelle offered to work for free not just because of the bigger picture, but because she cared about the integrity of the movie and actors she was working with. She wanted to help out. She didn’t try to negotiate. After Harvey Weinstein’s story broke many men and women in Hollywood grew concerned about the insanely high levels of power super-harassers had. Once it was revealed Kevin Spacey was a harasser, Michelle wanted to support the cause. Was Michelle also served by the reshoots? Perhaps. If audiences didn’t show up to see the movie because they didn’t want to support Spacey then presumably Michelle might not make as much money. But this was far from guaranteed (after all, Woody Allen continued to draw audiences for decades after his harasser/assaulter/pedophile status was revealed). Ultimately, though, Michelle had altruistic motives. She didn’t want to participate in promoting a movie featuring a sexual harasser, and was willing to work overtime for no pay because she cared about righting a wrong.

I offered to work for free to right a different wrong. In the summer of 2014 I saw injustice in the way our government treated immigrant youth, who were being asked to appear in immigration court and risk deportation, all without a lawyer to represent them. I was on the Board of a volunteer-only non-profit but as more and more immigrant kids arrived in the US from increasingly desperate circumstances in their home countries, public and private funders wanted to help and make change. Public and private funding doesn’t come in quickly, though, and the organization I was working for so tirelessly had a bank account with less than $50,000 in it. I knew the organization needed help and I had the necessary skills, so I volunteered to step off the Board of Directors and work as a full-time staff member for free for six months. Over the course of six months we hired paid staff members, but I continued to work for free for the good of the organization. Working at a mission-driven company meant that every day I got to go in to work proud that our organization was making a massive effort to change the world.

Working for free was a risk both Michelle and I were willing to take in the hopes of bettering the world. Michelle’s kindness was not rewarded. Her male co-star (who is not being promoted as an Oscar nominee for this film, when Michelle has been nominated for four Oscars and is being shopped for an Oscar for the film she was being paid no money to reshoot) felt no qualms about asking for payment of $1.5 million to do the reshoot.  He was clearly less concerned about the movement and the bigger picture to remove harassers from the film and more concerned with his own personal bottom line.

Similarly, my gesture was later met with pay disparity. After working for free for six months, I joined the payroll of the non-profit. Over the next year the organization grew and a male colleague with seven years less experience than me was promoted to an equal position in the organization. He was less prepared to tackle requirements of his job due to this inexperience. I later learned he and I made the same salary despite the total inequity in our levels of experience and work load.

I had been Mark Wahlberged. My male colleague had fought harder for an increased salary and won. I was still worrying about what was right for the bigger picture.

Do I think Mark Wahlberg did the right thing by demanding to be paid and Michelle did the wrong thing? Not at all. But, like it or not, Mark Wahlberg, and the people who think and act like him, are the people who hold the power. Until people who think and act like Michelle - the people who are more concerned with society than their individual gains - hold more of the power, we have to play Mark’s game.

Toppling the patriarchy requires many different approaches. There is no one-size-fits-all. The $1.5 million pay discrepancy is not Michelle’s fault. It’s not Mark’s fault. It’s the fault of a system that continues to reward men while devaluing women. However, while I can’t speak for Michelle, in retrospect I believe my offer to work for free did play into a growing pay disparity at my organization. I hope it didn’t affect other female salaries there. If we are going to end the gender pay gap in my generation, and I believe we can, all women need to demand payment for our hard work.

How? Ask for what you’re worth. This is one tactic to fight pay discrimination I wish I had used a few years ago. Asking for what you’re worth raises the bar for the entire organization, the entire system - paving the way for not just for me but for every woman looking for equal pay.

You may not be working entirely for free, but this lesson still applies. If you find yourself taking on extra projects or acting as secretary or den mother for your office, you’re allowed to ask for compensation for these tasks. And, if your employer refuses to pay, you are are allowed to stop doing the tasks above and beyond your job duties.

Before reading Michelle’s story I had mixed feelings about working for free. But in reading Michelle’s statement and recognizing the similar reason I offered to work at no charge, I see I made the wrong move. I should have valued myself more. Even if ultimately negotiations led to something less than what I was worth, I should have never volunteered to work for free. I didn’t create the rules our workplaces operate under but as long as those rules exist I need to play the game. I will never offer to work for free again.


Cognitive Dissonance: How It Kept Me Silent

by Alyssa Exposito


To the women who have had enough: yes, you deserve better.


I guess I’ve been someone who always believes in the greater good in people (or perhaps a cynic might view me as someone who is naive). As a young(er) woman, I definitely was perhaps a little naive. Maybe it was easier for me to blindly believe the inappropriate language I experienced from men came from the coined phrase “locker room talk.” For a long time I chose to accept the idea that “boys will be boys.”

Until, that is, I had a male boss at a cupcake shop where I worked part-time tell me a client referred to me as the “cute little chick with the big tits.”  The same male boss who has daughters and a wife. Working for a business that was founded and operated by his wife, I felt very uncomfortable to not only work late nights with him, but also to face her without the shame that was knowing her husband felt compelled to tell me a “client” described me in that way.  

In my head, I justified the dissonance of knowing this comment was not appropriate and continuing to work at the shop by placing the blame on that nameless client and not on my boss. But as I spoke to co-workers, the common consensus was that none of them felt comfortable around our boss, especially when he would question, for example, any sort of our outspokenness with things like, “Are you on your period?” After that, what I knew was wrong could no longer be justified by the narrative I created in attempt to block out the disturbance in my physical world.

You see, I think that’s something humans do: we actively meet resistance or discomfort by trying to distort or devolve the experience itself. What we know to be wrong is made right because we simply do not want to face (or it’s too painful to face) the absurdity.

Society has done a very good job at perpetuating this cognitive dissonance, especially with regard to the narrative women have with things like harassment (in all its forms). When faced with an incredibly uncomfortable or inappropriate situation, we have become experts at rationalizing it to create the illusion of comfort.

I think the time is up on that, because we deserve better.

Fast forward a few years to working in a big box gym as a personal trainer and there I was, in my manager's office, as he not only asked me about my sexual orientation but also inquired if I lived by myself. Weird, right? Inappropriate, right? I thought so too, but didn't pay much mind to it other than musing, “Why would he ask me that?” I didn’t understand where that came from and again, here I was rationalizing this experience simply with a mere “He’s kind of strange.”

Little did I know he was saying these inappropriate comments to EVERY woman that worked at the gym. One particular comment that I couldn't shake was when he commented on my physique by saying, “My ex-wife had a body like yours, tiny-compact, but still curvy.” It meant he actively took very close notice of me and my body.  Again, work became very uncomfortable...yet, I didn’t say anything.

The choice I made to not speak up came from a place of not wanting to feel the backlash of reporting him...and luckily by then I had found a safe space to work: Uplift. However, at the big box gym, there were women who did not face the same cognitive dissonance I did, who knew they deserved better, who weren’t afraid of backlash, and spoke out. Soon after, every woman was questioned by human resources, he put in his two weeks’ notice, and now no longer works at that establishment.

Plenty of other women right here at Uplift and in our own industry have experienced the same things:

Because of her own #MeToo moments, not to mention getting “mainsplained” every single time she went to the gym by other male clients and male trainers, Uplift’s co-founder Leanne told me she has insisted on keeping our space women-only even when many people over the years have tried to persuade her to incorporate male clients in order to increase the bottom line.

Another Uplift trainer shared her experience with me (anonymously) on an unbelievable (well, almost) encounter she had with a male trainer at Equinox, which she had joined to work out at the time. What seemed as a very innocent approach--advice and a consult about a training program--turned into an invasion of privacy and a creepy over-stepping of bounds, all the way to him constantly sending her inappropriate videos and selfies. After she followed the training program, he invited her into his office and offered to take her measurements, where he asked her to remove ALL of her clothes as he told her, “Don’t worry, girls get naked in here ALL the time.”

Wait, was that an admission that he has preyed on multiple women who trusted his “expertise?” Why yes, yes it is. What dawned on my co-worker wasn’t so much how she was conned into a humiliating situation, but more so that this has been something that ACTIVELY happens and even after she approached the gym manager about it, all he had to say was that it had been “handled.”

Which, as we know all too well now, is something big corporations say when feeding the bottom line matters more than the stories multiple women have in common about a predatory employee.

It’s also amazing to me how at any given place, you are more than likely to have something in common with the woman next to you, and, sadly, it often has to do with feeling uncomfortable in one’s skin. Cassie, Uplift’s philanthropy manager, and Teresa, our content manager, shared similar accounts: both recounted situations where the myriad of inappropriate comments from male colleagues became the norm until one caused a “turning of the heel” and forced them each to put in their two weeks’ notice at jobs they loved. The worst part?  The managerial staff(s) knew what was going on and did nothing.

So what does this tell US? That in many places the safety of the female staff is compromised to keep the man in question out of trouble.  But you know what? TIME’S UP.

This is the battle we face everyday. It’s as if we must walk around with our steel-coated armor to not only ward off the inappropriate behavior, but protect ourselves and our dignity. And as exhausting as it might be, when we need a reprieve there are spaces like Uplift, which I, along with many of my colleagues, found in a time where we needed it most. So when someone asks why these all-female spaces exist, I tell them it’s simple: we are finally creating environments that allow for the safety, celebration, and welcoming of the female experience. AMEN to that.

What have I learned from these experiences and stories? Because we have lived in a society where it has historically been our word versus theirs, and women have always been advised to not “stir up trouble,” the cognitive dissonance so many of us knowingly or unknowingly live in/with reinforces us to live in a way where we constantly reframe scenarios so that we stay put, quiet, and not disrupt the peace in the interest of  “knowing our place.”

But finally, we seem to be in the midst of a radical movement where women are no longer reconciling these uncomfortable experiences. We are now coming together in FULL understanding that we deserve SO much more than diminishing what happens to US.


That Time I Was Pregnant


by Ashleigh Catsos Yager


Five months ago, I had a baby. It was a fast, uncomplicated delivery and the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. After the standard two-day hospital stay, my doctor came into our room to look me over one last time and wish us well before we were discharged. “I’ll see you in six weeks,” she said. Ah, the six-week postpartum check-up I had heard so much about, the day that I would be cleared to resume “regular activities.” Especially in those initial days of motherhood, sore and overwhelmed and covered in poo, I looked to that appointment as a beacon of hope, the point at which I would be declared “back to normal”. I was desperate for that normalcy, to return to working out and feel like myself again, to “get mybody back”.


The night before that six-week appointment, I stood in front of the mirror and cried. I had failed somehow. I didn’t feel healed or even close to normal, and had never felt less like myself. I certainly didn’t look the way I had hoped or expected to look at this point. I thought I would bounce right back but instead felt broken. I had done everything right, hadn’t I?

I worked out throughout my entire pregnancy, from the day I saw the plus sign on the pee stick to just hours before I went into labor. During my first trimester, my workouts remained largely unchanged. I was lucky enough that I experienced very little morning sickness but I fatigued easily and was generally exhausted so I allowed myself additional rest days. I continued to run but slowed my pace, took classes but modified as needed and used lighter weights in my strength training. I generally felt so good that I wondered if I had imagined the whole pregnancy thing to begin with.

By the middle of my second trimester, I had stopped running entirely. While I definitely had more energy than the initial weeks of pregnancy and my workouts remained strong, I found I could no longer tolerate the impact. Instead of running, I started going on long walks and added prenatal yoga classes into the mix. I would think to myself, “Look at me, I have this whole thing figured out.”

By the third trimester, I had removed “high-impact” from my personal exercise vocabulary. If we’re being honest, my definition of “workout” had changed entirely. The bigger I got, the more challenging movement became, but I made it my goal to move every day. I found that I moved more slowly but focused more deeply. I felt prepared, strong and proud of my body and my pregnancy.

And then my son was born.

Pregnancy is hard but the days, weeks and months postpartum are even harder. There’s nothing that reinforces the feeling of losing control of one’s body like the demands of a new baby. My body was not my own. I thought of that six-week milestone often and longingly and sometimes in tears. What I discovered, however, is that the fact that the follow-up appointment is typically scheduled six weeks from delivery is an arbitrary recovery timeline for many. It certainly was for me. I did not wake up that particular morning and feel as though I could run another marathon or go to the gym and throw some kettlebells around. Even when my doctor looked me over and told me, “Everything looks great”, I knew that she meant so superficially. There was so much more healing and repairing to be done on a cellular level.

When I first found out I was pregnant, I would stand in front of the mirror and try to see if I looked any different. It didn’t feel like much was happening: I wasn’t nauseous, I wasn’t yet showing, and it was too soon to feel the baby move. Part of me even doubted that there was a baby in there at all. I had to trust that, even though I couldn’t feel it, things were happening.

Now five months postpartum, I am reminded that progress can’t be measured by what you see in the mirror. I have returned to working out and my body is responding, but slowly. It is hard not to feel discouraged, to feel like progress is not being made. My muscles feel sleepy. I often hear my postpartum personal training clients bemoan their lost abs and I can totally relate. I need to constantly remind myself that they are still in there even if I can’t feel them. With pregnancy, my body changed so gradually at first that, I didn’t even realize. I need to trust that the same is happening now as I work to rebuild my strength. I need to be grateful that I have a body that can move, a body that moved me safely and confidently through the months it took to grow a human.

Pregnancy was not the time to lose weight or to test my physical limits—the pregnancy itself did that. It was about maintenance, mobility and stamina and I was grateful for exercise as an outlet that kept me sane. Looking back, I realize it was the first time in my life that I was working out truly because it made me feel better, not because I had a specific goal in mind.

I need to remember that now and encourage my clients to do the same. We can’t apply a deadline to healing, just like we can’t anticipate a timeline for growth or progress. The only thing that is within our control is what we do to be proactive. We can move our bodies daily and be grateful we have bodies to move. This is what pregnancy has made clear. Whether it’s a return from having a baby, an injury, or from a period of negative thinking, we can all benefit from a shift in focus to being proactive, not so focused on progress. The progress will come.

And in the meantime, we should all do some more Kegels.


When a man's ego gets hurt, he sues...

by Alyssa Exposito


We were all moved by the ever-Uplifting and poignant Oprah this past Sunday at the Golden globes. She shed light on the power and time women are now reclaiming.

... what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories.
— -Oprah Winfrey 

It is both amazing and daunting that we are now living in a time where we can share our stories, live out our truths, and begin to change the conversation(s): not the one we have with society but the ones we have in our heads. 

Since we have bitten our tongues for so long, this idea that we are no longer succumbing to silence by the power of men is actually radical. 

So much so that ALL WOMEN groups/organizations/and societies will inevitably receive backlash. 

On December 28, 2017 comedian Iliza Shlesinger was actually sued for banning men at her “Girls Night In” comedy show (and provided that part of the proceeds to Planned Parenthood). Innocent right? Well not for one particular man. Out of all the shows that Shlesinger does throughout the year, this feminist-forward comedian just wanted to put forth an evening where women could feel comfortable and safe by sharing experiences that most men comedians tended to poke fun at (...incidentally which are the same experiences they have never themselves lived out)

Living up to his reputation of filing discrimination suits against bars who offer “Ladies Night”, George St. George and his attorney, Alfred Rava, were not having the advertised “No Boys Allowed” event. In fact, Rava has boasted to CNN that he has filed over 150 complaints about California businesses for violating the Unruh Civil Right Act 1959 which was enacted to provide “full and equal accommodations” in establishments regardless of religion, sex, and disability. 

Technically speaking, yes, this show could be in violation of a statute in the State of California, and technically speaking, this man also has the right to protest. However, given St. George’s background of being a plaintiff in several suits that have challenged themes like “Ladies Night” and his attorney, a former secretary of the National Coalition for Men, a San Diego non-profit organization, that highlights topics like “the sexual abuse hysteria” one can see how this is simply a way to beat the insecurity felt when their “power” is compromised

Reading about things like this can make it extremely difficult to not view this as men who are incredibly intimidated by the women who in turn are gathering to make their stories THEIR OWN. What a radical thought that women are no longer sitting quietly and “looking pretty,” but instead are taking action to create more spaces for women to speak up, stand with, and empower one another. 

As more women come together, and more potential backlash is unleashed, it’s important for us to remind ourselves and others a few key things: 

  • Continue to be a support to your fellow woman and the groups that fail to get represented. A little support goes a long way and there is A LOT of strength in diversity and in numbers. 
  • Know that your voice is powerful. Even if spoken with trembling words, you DESERVE to be heard. Speak into existence your truth, and always support those who have the courage to do so. 
  • YOU are your biggest investment. Whether that is giving yourself a mental health day  (because as we know, fighting the patriarchy is exhausting) or taking your favorite class at Uplift, the care you give yourself is a reflection of how you can care for others. LOVE yourself fiercely and continue to SMASH GLASS CEILINGS!

Maddaus, Gene. 2017, December. “Iliza Shlesinger Sued for Banning Men From Comedy Show.” 


10 Ways to Stay Happy & Healthy On Your Holiday Vacation

Our Coaches share their tips on how to keep your body and soul happy this holiday season!



"Take the time to read a book or article -- and eat leafy greens!"


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"Enjoy the moments for what they are. Don't worry about the workout or food you have to eat the next day to counterbalance -- stay present!"



"Find joy and gratitude in the little things."






"Don't get down on yourself for overindulging a little."


"Do what you want, savor every moment, and do what makes you feel good!"

Katie E.


"Everything in moderation -- except laughter!"



"Take a moment for yourself amid the holiday chaos to focus on the things for which you are grateful (and sometimes a really solid hug is as good as any gift)!"



"Try a little bit of everything -- don't beat yourself up! Enjoy your life!"



"Live ya damn life!"


In conclusion: the holidays only come once a year! Enjoy yourself, love your family and friends, and we'll be here to sweat with you when you get back! 

Twisting the Plot: Reset the Body, Reset the Mind.


by Alyssa Exposito

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We have all felt it one way or another, that all consuming pressure in which every situation we are apart of is evaluated- where every evaluation is fixated on determining our intelligence, personality, and/or character. We fill ourselves with the questions that ultimately prevent us from growth. We associate our “best selves” with our most perfect selves. But what if we had it all wrong? Last week, Dr. Cecilia Dintino, co-founder of “Twisting the Plot”, a science-based creative solution for women over 50 that provides practical guidance for understanding, reevaluating and repurposing one’s life, discussed the concepts of how one can connect the body and mind by exploring fixed and growth mindsets.  The best way to describe a fixed mindset is being dealt with a hand, and spending the entire game (life) convincing other people that you have THE BEST hand, in hopes no one calls your bluff.  Where as growth mindset, one takes this hand and looks at it as a starting point for improvement. The hand you are dealt with is not the end-all-be-all, instead we can see it as an opportunity to “embrace the NOT YET.”


It is incredibly empowering to share and be vulnerable about the aspects that we find ourselves in constant evaluation of- Will I fail or succeed? Will I look smart or dumb? Will they accept or reject me? Most of the times we answer these questions without attempting to try.  I found myself thinking how often I have placed situations and experiences into boxes that were either “good” or “bad,” which meant I did the same for my traits.  What Cecilia taught us about fixed mindset, is that it is very detectable and we can return to our bodies to show us: strength, peace and calm, and delight and connection. How does one do that? Simple. Breathe. Place your hand on your heart. There is your choice.


Like most things, our mindsets are a process, think about the amount of time it took you to learn a certain skill, now think on why you would ever miss the opportunity to learn? This is what growth mindsets can show us and we can  shift our fixed mindsets by:

1.     Learn to hear your fixed mindset voice- the one who feels the need to be perfect, where failure cannot exist.
2.     Recognize you have a choice- Breathe. Do not give away the rights to your present and future to others.
3.     Talk back to your fixed mindset, with a growth mindset. Remember: It is not about NEVER.  Reframe it to not yet.
4.     Take growth mindset into action- get creative and curious. “ How can I make this playful and light?” “What if I challenged myself, without judgement, to do ‘x,y.z’?”

The best way to truly adopt more of a growth mindset is to ask of others and MOST importantly of yourself is for feed(forward) not feedback. Continuously ask “What is next? How can I do this differently?” When you catch yourself asking these questions it only means you are getting better, you are expanding. This means you are embracing the growth, potential, awareness and curiosity of your life.



by Leanne Shear

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Last month, we held one of our most important and impactful “Strong Women Uplift Each other” events yet: “SWUE: Me too.”

This past October, dozens of survivors started speaking up against the sexual harassment that they’ve endured, and that cascade appears to have only just begun; and the now-familiar #MeToo mantra has only itself just begun to put into words the amount of sexual harassment and assault women are forced to face on a daily basis. 

While this isn't a new narrative, it is clear that women are ready to talk about and actively fight against this abuse, and Uplift, being a place where we not only foment physical strength, but also trust, safety, and support,  stood ready and willing to lead the discussion, sparked by the stories of our courageous colleagues/hosts of the evening, Cassie and Kara, and compounded by the many stories other women were brave enough to share that night. 

We learned a lot. First, there are all sorts of kinds and levels of abuse and harassment (physical, mental/emotional, verbal etc.), but what they have in common are a resulting feeling of deep shame, worthlessness, and often, a fear of intimacy. And those repercussions are why women so frequently stay quiet, or make excuses to cover up our pain.

As a group, we asked ourselves how to create accountability for ourselves and/or other women in difficult or abusive situations? What moments cause us to finally leave the situation and/or to take action? After all, statistics show that the average woman goes back to her abuser seven times.

We learned that the victim of abuse or harassment has to get to a place of empowerment herself—no one from the outside can force her to leave until she is ready herself, and shame around that is the biggest barrier to speaking out. Friends and family can be there without judgement, remind the survivor of her worth, and help to empower her until she is ready to take the next step. And that’s exactly what we did at our powerful SWUE event: talked about these issues in a supportive community, and began the process of reclaiming our power. We shared, we listened, we supported.

As we discussed all of the nuances of the abuses of power embedded in the patriarchy under which we live, we extolled the many “micro moments” in the #MeToo movement and beyond, which will progress it, and eventually lead to big moments of true societal change. Our “SWUE: Me Too” was one such micro moment, and we at Uplift are dedicated to continuing the conversation….and changing the equation.

Helpful Links:

NYC Domestic Violence Hotline
Rape & Sexual Assault Resources (NYC) - Emergency Care Info, Hotlines, Counseling/Support, Legal Help, and additional information
How #MeToo Could Move From Social Campaign to Social Chance (CNN)
Exhale to Inhale - Yoga for Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Survivors