Same Path Traveled Different Journey Part 8: the scary struggle

This past weekend was the Tactical Strength Challenge (TSC) a competition for your max deadliest, max reps of pull ups, and max kettlebell snatch in 5 min.  This is one of my favorite events of the year!  Instead of competing, I was able to be one of the officials at FUELhouse who was hosting it for their first time! Such a thrilling event!  It was full of anticipation, encouragement, and halloween costumes.

Many of the competitors, it was their time participating (so exciting!).  It was amazing to watch each individual push past through the struggle to perform their best!  There were many surprising looks on the competitors’ faces as they out preformed their anticipated goal.  This is every Coaches’ dream!  Seeing their clients go beyond what they thought they were capable of doing!

Remembering back to my first TSC, I was so nervous going into the event.  I was scared of not being able to perform to the level of my goals and anxious for the outcome.  It wasn’t till my third TSC when I was able to accomplish this feeling of performing well past my anticipated goals.  But it was only a result of working with coaches to help me overcome my fears or what I like to call it  the “scary struggle.” In my case the deadlift.

Yes, I am a personal trainer and I have a love-hate relationship with the deadlift and I constantly have to work through this “scary struggle.”  We all have a love-hate o relationship with at least one of the lifts in the TSC (deadliest, pull-ups, and Kettlebell Snatch).  But when we overcome our fear, it is then we learn the art of struggling well!

As Alex Elle (author) puts it “I am thankful for my struggle because without it I wouldn’t have stumbled across my strength”

No matter if you can deadlift 300lb or 125lb, do 10 strict pull ups or hang for 10 sec, perform 100 snatches or 65 snatches within the five minute, we all have our own struggle. And a struggle is a struggle!  No matter what your fitness level may be.  We all struggle for one more rep. It is when we work through our struggle, we are able to produce our new found strength.

Keep the “scary struggle” alive! It is what keeps us moving towards the potential beyond our belief!


Same Path Traveled Different Journey Part 7: Strength in Sisterhood

Ten years ago my family did a huge road trip from Spokane, WA to Denver, CO with two of my uncles (mom side of the family) and their families to visit our grandparents.  At this time, I was entering my senior year of high school and my sisters and cousin (who basically is like a sister) were still in junior high or just entering junior high.  One thing that we all remember about that trip was stating when we are all “grown up” we will take our own road trip just us sisters.

Mary WIllard
Mary Willard

Fast forward to last week, we did exactly that and road tripped it down to the Oregon Coast and the Redwoods! To be honest, we didn’t really remember us planning this type of trip until we were actually living it! What truly was our motivation was our mother.

During this time last year, my mother had a brain tumor removed and I went through my first surgery (minor little foot surgery to remove some bone spurs).  My two sisters work as nurses and their naturally instinct is to care for the sick. Without hesitation Mary (closest to me in age) took time off to care for my mother. Leah (the youngest of us three) postponed her search for a nursing job came to Seattle to take care of me pre and post surgery and returned back home to help with my mom.


We wanted this trip to start a new chapter of celebrating life!

Leah Willard
Leah Willard

All three of us, plus our cousin, wished our mother could have come with us on this trip. Since her health is still not 100% for a 10-hour trip, we instead took everything she has taught us about road trips:

  • She taught us the art of enjoying the journey through games, rocking out to music and simply enjoy each other’s company.
  • She taught us the beauty of nature and the awe of creation while appreciating all its wonders.
  • She taught us the importance of sisterhood and how it is one of the strongest relationships a woman can have.

As we started the trip we rocked out to some of our favorite songs, stopped along the side of the road for some epic pictures and create new memories to our sisterhood journey.

Now I have to explain that all three of us sister where not always this close. The fact we were able to spend an entire week together and still miss each other as we went our separate ways is a huge testimony of what our mother has taught us.

Many times our mother would find us in very ugly catfight during our younger ages (so bad I don’t even want to begin describing some of our fights). It took many years (mainly me), for us to realize how we each have very unique qualities and very special gifts to offer each other and to the world.

I love my sisters! Even though we now are what we like to call “adulting” and have grow away from our catfights, there are still sometimes were we may disagree, have a big miscommunication, or may not understand each other. This doesn’t mean that we shut each other out of our lives. It has taken practice after practice to keep to strength our sisterhood to be where it is today.

Similar to weight lifting what may seem HEAVY at the beginning turns into something easy later, but only through time and persistent practice. To strengthen any type of sisterhood, it takes time and persistent practice. At first it may seem SO Hard and Difficult, but over time and consistent practice you begin to see the wonderful gifts each woman have to offer to the world and you.

The beauty between my sisters and I is the fact there are three of us, and when there is three it is like “a cord of three strands, it is not quickly broken.” (Ephesians 4:12)


I invite women on this journey of strengthening our sisterhood to be like this three cord that is not easily broken.

Three Willard Women
Three Willard girls are now Willard Women


Same Path Traveled Different Journey Part 6: #whyIswing

As a trainer and coach, I always want to know my clients’ why, the what for, . . . the deeper reason why they are working with me. At first, it can be as simple if dropping some weight or fitting into a pair of jeans, but I usually find there are deeper reasons why behind their goals, even through their goals are GOOD!

It wasn’t till Strength Matters posted the question “why do you swing” wanting to know the reason behind many people’s swing. Right away I thought, I swing to help with my sport. I posted this picture at the beginning of the water ski season, now with it is the end of the season I find I am asking myself do I have a deeper reason behind my swing then just for off-season training? If I am asking my clients to discover their “why” or “what for” I thought I would share my reasons.


I swing for my mom; she has been the one who has always believed in my dreams and my wild hippie-gypsy spirit. Without her I would not be the woman I am today! She has taught me there is a powerful source living within me! It is through the power of believing I will be able to unleash this source.  This power has lead me to have a passion for exercise, health, movement, nutrition etc!  But it is only a result of my mother leading me to discover my passions and most importantly this power that is bigger than life.  She has taught me how trusting and having faith in this power leads us to your passions and the process of discovering your true strength. She has taught me so much about power strength, and living life with passion,  but most importantly she has taught me to stand for my beliefs and for those who I love.

It is now my turn to demonstrate to her all she has given to me! And this is the reason I swing for my mom.

A year ago, my mother went into brain surgery to remove a tumor.  Leading up this event was her neck and back pain.  After two different MRIs, it was confirmed she had a herniated disk at C6- C7. For those who may be wondering what do those letters mean if you were to bend your head down toward your chest it is the main vertebra you feel at the base of her neck.

To the doctors and my parents surprise there a tumor trying to make itself a home in my mother’s brain.  This was a blessing in disguised!  The surgery was an easy success! Yes it was a huge success, but that was the easy part.  Recovery has been a different story.  My mom was not only recovery from a major surgery but she was and is still trying to heal her neck.  She decided one surgery was enough and she was going to heal her neck with the holistic approach.  Because of where the herniated disk is located it has caused her shoulder and hand tremendous pain.  She continues to fight this through chiropractor, massage therapy, acupuncture, and pulse therapy.

The cost of the surgery and the fact she has maxed out her insurance coverage, I am asking for your donation to help my mother fight this battle of regaining her health without another surgery.

Knowing she gave me this amazing gift of life, I cherish this gift through my health.

I will be doing a kettlebell swing for every dollar donated to help my mother to be the best she can be pain free! Clink here to see how you can be apart of this!

Most importantly, I am committed not just my health and my mother’s but to your life’s health. I swing for you to know life is amazing wonderful life and we are to enjoy this gift through this complex amazing bodies of ours.

I SWING for my MOM


My mom is my why S- She is my

Passionate, strong, W-warrior

Who continues to I- inspires me to live life to the fullest

And lets N-nothing get in the way of

The G-Greatness she continues to see in me.

Same Path Traveled Different Journey Part 5: Beast Mode ON/OFF

When you enter a gym or see advertisement for gyms or a workout, it is usually with BEAST MODE ON! Yeah lets get after it!  As a coach, it gives me chills when I am instructing a group of people beast moding it up and killing a workout!


There is nothing wrong with BEAST MODE ON! But there are times for BEAST MODE to be OFF.


Seattle is my HOMEO – Optimize

F – Frolic

F – Freely

In my case rest is not something I do not do very well and when I transition from a summer of water skiing to off-season training I usually go BEAST MODE ON all the way! Well as you can guess, out of excitement of being at a new gym, I rushed back to my kettlebell routines . . . and . . . my back pain has returned with a vengeance!


In the past, I would panic and start to worry what would my future look like if I am injured AGAIN! Saying things like “you are an idiot” and “you are a trainer you should know better, how could you let this happen AGAIN!” I would say these things over and over again beating myself up mentally. Little did I know I was creating a trap for myself by allowing the past to relive the future just because if felt like the past creped into the future . . .. But I invited it.


This time I knew exactly what I needed to do . . . Step away from the bells and most importantly turn BEAST MODE O.F.F. I am still learning the importance of transitioning from my sport to off-season training.   So I came up with this little acronym O.F.F. Optimize Frolic Freely to help me not beat myself up with injuries but find the joy in the struggle and  the opportunity it provides.   To Optimize Frolic Freely is to simple enjoy playing again y with a different movement, walking, or running, crawling for finding new toys to play with.   Though I am injured again this is an opportunity for me to explore something new! First you have to be Free to live Freely!


This time I am at peace with my flare up! The way I am able to be free is through knowing I am not the same person compared to my first injury. I am at complete peace with my past and keeping it my past. Even though it feels like I am reliving parts of my past, I come back to who I was during that time and the lesson learned leading me to who I am today. Most importantly I am look areas of what I can still improve my current status.  I have a positive outlook verse being Negative Nancy


It may feel like you are reliving parts of your past because you are right back where you started . . . it could be your 2nd or 5th transformation challenge, your 10th time running that mile loop, or your million visit to the gym with the wonder if you will ever get past this point? And maybe you have a similar voice like I had allowing the past to haunt the future.


I know this feeling and have asked this question of myself way to many times in relationship to my injuries. Instead of wondering if you will get past this point try turning BEAST MODE O.F.F and free yourself of your past expectations. Look and see if there are something different you can do through your journey towards your health.  Maybe it is helping someone in your challenge with an areas you struggle with or simply relating the struggle together.  Maybe it is time for a your mile long loop to be a different  loop or your exercise in the gym needs a little change to spice things up again!


Even though you may not be where you want to be try to optimize frolic freely!  Personally,  I want to be with my new training friends beast moding it up, instead I will be practicing BEAST MODE  O.F.F.  optimize frolic freely . . .   maybe trying something completely new  like Indian club!


Somedays will be BEAST MODE ON and other days BEAST MODE O.F.F. Enjoy the journey and go out and play freely!


Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Same Path Traveled Different Journey Part 4: Houseless but not HOMEless

If we are Facebook friends (if not lets be friends!) you may have seen the post I wrote about a month ago. I didn’t know how else to start this post so I thought I would add a little more to who I am and this gypsy spirit of mine.

Many have said have I needed this time away and travel to do a little soul searching . . . or I have been asked what in the world am I doing with my life?

The best answer I can give is I am being a gypsy. As a gypsy, she knows who she is and who she wants to become. Seattle is my HOMEIt is through the journey she takes steps closer to the women she knows she is created to be. She is not searching for her soul for it is her soul that is leading her down this wild adventure that she can only travel. So what may have looked like a little soul searching is by far what I have been doing these last couple of months. Being this gypsy girl, I am chasing my dreams and enjoying the journey.

I have not been doing any soul searching but I have been searching, I have been wandering with purpose, wondering where do I fit in this dynamic world and how to share my passions?

Coble Ski School is one place where I feel I can fully embrace my crazy spirit to water ski. When I am there I have this pull to be part of the health industry and fitness. During my time at Coble Ski School even I consider this place home, I longed for something more.

Once I was back in Seattle, I joined an amazing company Athleta, empowering women to be fit and fashionable. Being the athlete and gym rate, I usually don’t have time to go shopping. There the women helped me embrace my style as an athlete and as a woman. Even though this was a short chapter to my story, I am grateful for what it taught me.

Women need women.

During past 8 years I have been in many cases the only female. Through college I worked at all boys camp (more on that later). Post college I was the only full time female trainer at the gym. Then during my free time, I found myself water skiing but again surrounded by men! It wasn’t till this year I realized I needed more women in my life. Women like my mother, my sisters, and women like Rachael (see pervious post) who embraces each other to be each other’s best! Whether that is through fashion, or at the gym.

Knowing I belong in fitness I started looking or “wandering” to find a place where we would embrace each other! Talking to many people throughout the Seattle area I was able to find my TRIBE at FUELhouse!

It is a team of amazing women coaching the art of living a healthy lifestyle. I have only been there very little this past month and I can’t believe I found my tribe! Working with women who have the similar philosophies on training and nutrition is so uplifting knowing I am not the only one who has these beliefs.   I have already learned a lot from each one and I am excited for our journey together!

Admit it or not we are all wanders, looking for our tribe. You don’t have to travel across the country like me; you could be driving to and from work or picking up your kids, but still wondering where do you fit in this world. The only way I was able to find my tribe was trying different work environments on and seeing how they fit. But to know if it is a good fit for you, you need to know who you are and your beliefs.

A tribe is a group of people with a common interest like: exercise, religion, gaming, geeking out on computers etc. Once you have found this common interest it unites you and the group as one creating an amazing community.

My gypsy spirit lead me to my tribe and I am excited to have found my home.

Do you have your tribe?

Same Path Traveled Different Journey Part 3: little times of inspirational influences

Waiting anxiously as we drove onto the ferry. As soon as the car came to a stop, my two other sisters and I, would race up the stairs for the outside point on the ferry. All bundled up with the sea breeze blowing our hair, we would be there for the entire ferry ride with the anticipation of our destination: The Hodgson Family!


Being the oldest of a family of five (two sisters, and two brothers), I always longed to have an older sister to look up to. Rachael Hodgson in my world was my older sister. She also is the oldest of a family of five and we share a kindred spirit. When our family would go visit the Hodgson across the Puget Sound, our time there would be spent her braiding our hair, painting our nails, and most importantly getting the newest fashionable hand-me-downs from the Hodgson Girls. She always made us feel like we were her little sisters.


When home in Spokane, my sisters would still put into practice all she taught us or at least we tried to. Many times we would be playing with our Barbies and think that the Barbie doll was designed after Rachael’s stunning beauty and only hoped we would be able to grow up to be somewhat like Rachael!


Our visits centered around Rachael’s sporting events, her graduation from high school and soon her wedding. No matter what special event she was about to embark on, she always made each one of girls feel like we had an important role to play in her life. Deep inside, I wanted to do the same someday! Make others’ feel like they have important role to play in life.


As I started to embark on my special events in life, Rachael was there always with full support believing in me knowing I had a special role to play in other’s life.

My senior year of High School, I felt like I was walking in her footsteps through my athletics and special events. Again Rachael was there in full support sending me her beautifully hand crafted cards of encouragement simply to be me. During my first couple of months in Seattle after graduating college, she was confident I would succeed in both my career and water skiing when others may have thought I was a little crazy with my wild ideas.


Rachael's view when right before I going to rip up the water !
Rachael’s view when I about to rip up the water
During my time in Seattle, I was able to share my love for water skiing to her and her adorable little girl Olivia (at that time she was about almost a year old). They came to the lake and were able to watch from the boat! I was beyond excited! It was more than just water skiing it was an opportunity to show Rachael how she believed in my dreams has helped to be who I am today.


Rachael Hodgson has empowered many people through her life through small inspiration acts of believing and seeing others to their full potential.

She is  still an inspiration as she is now fighting colon cancer.  She continues to shine with her confidence and positive, radiating smile through this difficult time teaching all of us the value of life.

Now it is my turn to return the favor and make a difference in Rachael’s life!  Help me return the gift of life ensuring Rachael knows her times of inspiration influences has impacted  in our lives forever.

Here is where you can make the difference and read more about her journey

Same Path Traveled Different Journey ~ Part 2: giving up your dreams

As you start reading this, I will be on the road again across the state from a weekend visiting my family in Spokane. I have made this trip uncountable times in my life. I started making this trip when I was in college traveling to the Big City. I was filled with excitement!!! Dreams flashed through my head as I passed each mile marker. Dreams of living in the city, becoming a personal trainer and water skiing!

The end of this October will mark 5 years of me living on the west side of the state with numerous trips back and forth to and from Spokane. Within these 5 years, I have learned so much through injuries, through relationships, and through my goals! But through these multiple trips in life I learned it is ok to give up on dreams.

The last blog post may have been a little surprising or devastating as you read it.

Lets just say this was a big obstacle to manage and still is! The news of your mother having a brain tumor is something no one wants to face. Yet this was my reality a year ago and we are still learning how to navigate post her surgery.

Throughout this year, I had an opportunity in Orlando, FL! The feeling of starting something fresh, a new beginning, warmth sunshine was so appealing to me. It took a long time for me to decide if I was going to take this chance or not. I wanted to forget the hardship and start with a clean slate working toward my goals as an athlete and professional career training.

After long talks with my mom about this opportunity, she reminded me this is the one and only life I get to live and encouraged me to make the jump and go for it! So at the end of April I was in Orlando!

As soon as I arrived there the opportunity had vanished! Devastated with this reality, I went to my “Never-Land” aka Coble Ski School. There I was able to of course ski but more importantly come to the conclusion I am a northwest girl!

After two wonderful months at Cobles, I was back to the Northwest! Don’t get me wrong I love being in the Northwest, it is my home and where my heart belongs. But it is not where I thought I would be. I thought I would be on a new adventure in a new city, making new friends and chasing new dreams.

Since my time here in Seattle, I started to give up on my dreams. Yes I gave up my dreams! CRAZY (I know)! As the doors were obviously closed in Orlando, I started to question my dreams and wondered how they would become a reality.

My gypsy spirit is starving for a new adventure yet my heart and soul is directing me to stay in Seattle.

Afflicted inside, I continue to trust my ultimate coach who is the one who directs my heart and soul. Not understanding how He is directing my compass to stay in the Northwest, my gypsy spirit grieves the path it thought it would be taking to achieve her dreams. Knowing how He give us dreams as a calling to do His work, I will believe He has a much bigger adventure waiting for me here in Seattle! I may not know the steps of my journey, but living the unknown is the greatest adventure.

I may feel like I have given up on my dreams with “settling” being back in Seattle, the path has changed but my dream continue to live.

I have faith in the unknown Knowing the one who knows the Unknown.

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. Proverbs 16:9
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. Proverbs 16:9