Ilana Milstein: “Don’t underestimate the power of social media”

More fruits and veggies/less processed food — this is the first step to take towards feeling better. Leave all diets alone as they are diets and not ways of life. Having years of stomach issues and eliminating certain foods from my diet, at the end of the day eating more fruits and certain vegetables and less processed […]

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More fruits and veggies/less processed food — this is the first step to take towards feeling better. Leave all diets alone as they are diets and not ways of life. Having years of stomach issues and eliminating certain foods from my diet, at the end of the day eating more fruits and certain vegetables and less processed foods have always made me feel better.

As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ilana Milstein.

Ilana Milstein is a Personal Trainer, Pilates Instructor and the founder of No Excuses Training. Ilana teaches both one on one and group classes virtually and in person. She has combined both her practices in functional training and Pilates to create an effective workout available to all bodies and all ages. Currently, Ilana is also enrolled as a student in the Institute of Integrative Nutrition to become a health coach.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Fourteen years ago, after just having my first baby I left my corporate career. As a mom, I needed something with a bit more flexibility. I had always had a love for exercise and a desire to help people and I thought I’d combine them into one by becoming a personal trainer.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story? 
 COVID hit and my practice fell apart. At the time I had three clients with injuries and the rest of my clientele couldn’t wrap their heads around seeing me virtually. Two weeks into quarantine, the principal of my children’s school reached out to me to see if I would, on a volunteer basis, teach the teachers a virtual Pilates class. All of a sudden, I had a following. Other non-for-profit companies got in touch with me and asked me to teach virtual “fitness happy hours” for their teams and soon I was teaching 5–6 hours a week. I loved it — I loved connecting to new people and having them engage their bodies in ways they never had. Since I started my business, I had never made so little money but it was the happiest in my career that I’d ever been. It made me rethink where I want my business to go in the future.

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that? 
 I made so many mistakes in the beginning, I’ve definitely learned from each one. A big first mistake was mentioning I had a 24-hour cancellation policy, but not having it in writing. One of my first clients was a lawyer and she reamed me out when she suddenly missed a session and I mentioned the policy. Going forward I set up a contract that needs to be signed by every client before our first session. I learned that twenty-four-hour cancellation policies are not mean, rather they hold people accountable. I hate taking money from my clients but having this policy in order means they are less likely to cancel and therefore, get a great workout.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that? 
Many — throughout my career I’ve always had a trainer myself and I have learned so much, both bad and good from them. I’ve learned that I don’t like when a trainer gives the same exercises in the same order in each session — I like variety and I don’t like knowing what exercises are coming next. As a result, I am constantly mixing up the exercises in my own sessions. Additionally, my personality did not always work with the trainers I hired and I know my personality does not work with all prospective clients. I think it’s important to meet with clients and asses if the relationship will work before diving in to the work. In the past seven years I worked closely with two female trainers who I look at as my mentors. They helped me perfect my form and during our sessions we really got into the science of the exercise. I will forever be grateful to them for taking me under their wing.

Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

As a trainer, my workouts are focused on all bodies. I have worked closely with people recovering from surgeries and injuries and gear my workout to all people. I wanted to create a non-intimidating way of movement accessible to everyone. My workouts do not leave you feeling depleted rather they make you aware of how you move your body in space and hopefully leave you feeling energized. I also feel that by focusing on the small muscles in your body there is a meditative aspect of my practice which allows you to be completely focused on the muscles and breath and takes you away from your stressors.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

1. More fruits and veggies/less processed food — this is the first step to take towards feeling better. Leave all diets alone as they are diets and not ways of life. Having years of stomach issues and eliminating certain foods from my diet, at the end of the day eating more fruits and certain vegetables and less processed foods have always made me feel better.

2. Love your movement — don’t punish yourself by going to the gym doing workouts you don’t like doing. Love the movement you do and know what you love now may not be the movement you love a year from now. . I used to love running, I ran two marathons — I needed it to clear my head. Fast forward to my forties and I have minimal interest. Running just doesn’t give me the same high it used to. I feel depleted after I run and enjoy walking and Pilates.

3. The above being said try slowing down. Cardio queens, and I was one, need to experience how their body feels when they are not always pounding the pavement or the spin bike. I spent years like this and realized during this time I could not engage my core and even always had a bit of a belly. Pilates changed all that. I was able to connect to my muscles more, and found enjoyment out of exercises that lengthened my body as well.

4. Have good relationships — Yes, that is included in wellness. Five years ago, my brother suddenly passed away. His death taught me life is short and there is no time for toxic relationships. While my circle of friends may have gotten tighter my friendships now only support me and build me up and I hope I do that to them in return.

5. Self-Care!!! We’ve all heard about it, and no its not only a massage or facial. Self-care is self-compassion, loving yourself and allowing yourself time and space to enjoy life and free yourself momentarily from your stressors. I find its best when it takes the form of a practice or ritual. For myself, it waking up early while everyone is still sleeping, doing some sort of movement and then enjoying my coffee and breakfast.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

It would be a movement of self-love. I think wellness can only start from there. One has to love oneself, not doubt, not compare, but start wherever they are at loving themselves and know they are worthy of change and worthy of betterment. Today so much of wellness is on social media comparing one’s elf, looking for the “right” answers or following what some influencer is doing. The path of wellness is extremely individual and looks different to different people but we all can start at this baseline of loving oneself.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

1. Be confident in your product — for years I wasn’t because I felt like I needed a master’s degree in exercise to be a good trainer

2. Put a contract in writing before starting with each client

3. Don’t underestimate the power of social media — I was very late to the game as I was so nervous to put myself out there but I finally did

4. Create boundaries — for me that turned into setting a specific weekly time for each client and not winging the schedule week by week. As a business owner you decide the hours you work — clients can only take advantage of you if you don’t.

5. Love your clients — don’t stay with clients who deplete you. You deserve more. Also you will come to despise the 1–2 hours you spend with this person, which may not lead to the best workout from both you and from them.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why? 
 Mental health — having gone through depression and OCD as a teenager, I can only stress the importance of these issues. The importance of being heard, loved and supported in terms of dealing with mental health and how society as a whole need to embrace these issues.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media? 

 @noxcusesfitness on Instagram. NO Xcuses Training on Facebook

Thank you for these fantastic insights!

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