Lisa Herrington of FIT House: “Make Self-Care and Exercise a Priority”

Make Self-Care and Exercise a Priority — Prioritizing self-care is not a selfish act. It means you are being mindful of your own needs ,enabling you to better care for others. I am the mom of four children and I know that my early morning runs help me focus on daily tasks and the needs of my family. […]

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Make Self-Care and Exercise a Priority — Prioritizing self-care is not a selfish act. It means you are being mindful of your own needs ,enabling you to better care for others. I am the mom of four children and I know that my early morning runs help me focus on daily tasks and the needs of my family. Without the release that happens when I exercise, I would be overly stressed, less patient and I would have less energy to give to the people who need me most. As a trainer, I encourage clients to write down acts that fill their cups up and do 1–2 of these daily. Whether it’s a run, massage, meditation or a walk with a friend, self-care is essential for overall well-being.

As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Herrington

Lisa Herrington is the founder of FIT House, a boutique fitness studio established in 2009 in Davis, California. She is a personal trainer, fitness instructor, wellness coach and best selling author. Lisa lives in Davis with her husband and their four children.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?

I can’t remember a time I wasn’t involved in fitness or interested in wellness. I played numerous sports growing up, settling on soccer in high school which I played through college. While I was never the most skilled on the field, my fitness level carried me through much of my soccer career. I loved conditioning and figured if I couldn’t be the best ball handler on the field, I would strive to be the hardest worker and most conditioned. I would join my dad at the gym at 5am in high school or run with my mom to fit extra training sessions in. It was great bonding time and their love for working out quickly rubbed off on me. While a love of all things fitness came easy to me, I worked hard to find balance in my routine. When training for a sport is one’s sole focus, it can be overdone and this happened to me several times during my teens and early twenties. I worked with professionals to overcome exercise and eating disorders in high school and college and because of those experiences, I am a much better trainer and fitness instructor today. I understand the importance of living a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle from the inside out and work with clients to achieve this balance.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

The most life-changing (albeit sad) story happened a year after I opened FIT House. Up until that point, working out was much more of a physical journey for me. I felt as though there was nothing a long run or a hard cycle class couldn’t fix. If I was nervous, stressed, hyper, tired…the cure all was a solid sweat session. This is how I coached most of my clients too. I was young and had not yet experienced life that couldn’t be fixed by fitness. I opened my studio and became pregnant all within the same few months. I was happily expecting twin boys when to everyone’s complete shock, one of my precious boys passed away at birth. It took many months to accept our new normal, one in which I felt like a fraud…coaching fitness when I didn’t even trust my own body as I felt it had failed my baby. Exercise could not fix what had happened and I had to adopt an entirely new mindset and approach to training. There were many times I questioned whether I should just hang up my training shoes for good, but I also did not want to give up on a profession that I loved and a passion to help others through their own journeys. Through therapy to work on the emotional journey and exercise to work on the physical journey, I began to heal and little did I know that through loss I would grow in ways I never imagined. Training clients was no longer about how many pull-ups they could do, it was about empowering them to see exercise as a tool for mental and physical health. Exercise was now a form of movement therapy to deal with life and loss on all levels. Of course, I still trained my athletes and anyone with the goal of getting stronger, faster, etc. but my training style was and still is more geared towards improving what is below the surface more so than what is above.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

I was working for the San Diego Fire Department when I first graduated college; helping them create a cohesive wellness program throughout the fire stations. As part of the program, we brought in monthly speakers to discuss a variety of topics. One month I volunteered to present fitness and nutrition tips to a large group of firefighters. I put together an outstanding presentation, prepared for weeks and the morning of, spilled my coffee down the front of my white blouse. There was no time to change as the brown stain set in and I decided to go out on stage and own my mishap. I was so nervous leading up to the presentation but once I opened by pointing out my inability to drink coffee, it broke the ice, created laughter and my nerves disappeared. I delivered a well-received workshop on healthy eating tips and exercises specific to firefighting and while doing that I realized how comfortable I was discussing wellness and imagined a career focused on it which is where I am now. I also learned the best way to open a workshop is to just be authentic. The spilled coffee helped me quickly connect with the audience and create a sense of inclusion and support.

Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?

I have been a certified personal trainer and fitness instructor for twenty years and work with clients of all ages and ability levels. I worked in many different settings including boutique studios, gyms and physical therapy centers. I taught bootcamp classes in a park in a town where there weren’t any (after moving from San Diego where there were plenty) and this led to the opening of FIT House, a boutique fitness studio that offers Bootcamp, Barre, FusionFIT, PsycleFIT, Yoga, Personal and Group Training and yearly movement, mindfulness and nutrition programs. Pre-pandemic, FIT House was absolutely thriving, offering a robust schedule to thousands of clients. Today, like many studios we have weathered many closures by adapting to ever-changing rules, offering outdoor classes and online classes. More so than ever, FIT House has helped people survive an emotional year and the future of fitness looks bright as we are in the business of preventative health for the body, mind and soul.

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?

Todd Durkin. Todd owns FQ10 in San Diego, California and I worked for him as an intern and then a newbie trainer when I was just starting out. My husband and I moved to northern California and before we left, I talked with Todd about what I would do in Davis. He asked me “What are you going to do up north?” to which I replied, “I’d love to open something similar to FQ10 in Davis!”. Todd’s studio was so much more of a community that welcomed everyone versus a gym that may intimidate some. FQ10 was bursting at the seams with energy (it still is!) and I had this gut feeling I could replicate that energy in our new home town. Fast forward 15 years, FIT House is a community, bursting at the seams with energy, built on fitness and the connections and relationships it fosters. I am so grateful for that conversation with Todd which motivated me to take a leap of faith in the fitness world. If I can offer readers one piece of advice it’s to find mentors and coaches that motivate you and push you outside your comfort zones.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

  1. Lack of Time — Feeling as though you don’t have enough time in the day to exercise or meal prep is a common reason that people won’t stick to regular exercise and healthy eating habits. Begin by scheduling four 30-minute “ME” blocks into your week where you can go for a walk or jog, do an online workout video or hop on a bike. If finding time to do organized exercise is too daunting, fit exercise into your day by taking the stairs instead of an elevator, dancing around the house with your loved ones or taking work calls while walking the neighborhood. Set aside time to grocery shop and meal prep on days when you don’t have other activities scheduled. The more meals you can prepare ahead of time for the week, the more time you will have for yourself during the week.
  2. Lack of Energy and Motivation — This may sound counterintuitive but the best thing you can do for your body when it feels tired is exercise. Exercise produces hormones called endorphins which create a euphoric feeling and can boost energy levels. Finding a time during the day when you feel the most energetic is an important factor in motivation. Some like to exercise in the early mornings, some find that afternoon exercise is a great pick-me up, and others prefer a mid-day sweat. Writing physical activity into your calendar just as you would a doctor’s or therapy appointment helps hold you to a schedule and finding a friend or group to do it with will help keep you accountable to others and yourself. Plus fitness is often more fun with friends!
  3. Self-Sabotage — Do you find yourself mindlessly scrolling on social media or Netflix binging at night? How does this make you feel? Does it fill your cup up or deplete you? While it is okay to use social media and/or tv as a way to decompress on occasion, it is not okay to make these daily habits especially if you find it difficult to make time for healthier habits. Replace self-sabotaging activities with self-care such as reading a good book, taking a bath, talking with a friend, journaling or going to bed early.

Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)

  1. Make Self-Care and Exercise a Priority — Prioritizing self-care is not a selfish act. It means you are being mindful of your own needs ,enabling you to better care for others. I am the mom of four children and I know that my early morning runs help me focus on daily tasks and the needs of my family. Without the release that happens when I exercise, I would be overly stressed, less patient and I would have less energy to give to the people who need me most. As a trainer, I encourage clients to write down acts that fill their cups up and do 1–2 of these daily. Whether it’s a run, massage, meditation or a walk with a friend, self-care is essential for overall well-being.
  2. Set Time Limits on Social Media — Technology has enabled the world to stay connected 100% of the time. This can make it very difficult to disconnect and be truly present. Constant scrolling becomes a time suck if you are not using social media for a specific purpose (business, true social connection). Un-engaged scrolling can lead to feelings of loneliness, low-self-esteem (if you are constantly comparing your life to others) and lack of motivation to do things that positively affect your mind and body. Setting time limits and creating boundaries on social media will open up space for self-care activities. The less you scroll and the more you take care of you, the happier and healthier you will be.
  3. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. — Water. It’s so simple yet many of us have an incredibly difficult time staying adequately hydrated. Drinking enough water each day helps regulate body temperature, keeps joints lubricated, delivers nutrients throughout the body, flushes out toxins, improves complexion, increases energy and can help with weight-loss. Drinking an 8oz. glass in the morning and a glass in the evening along with 6–8 glasses (more if you exercise or live in a hot climate) throughout the day will provide adequate hydration. Invest in a fun water bottle to carry around and spice up your water with fruits like raspberries and lime.
  4. Cultivate Your Community — Your family, your friends, your colleagues, your workout partners…these are some of the many people who make up your community. Fostering strong relationships is a key ingredient to living a happy, healthy life. Whether your friends lift you up when life kicks you down or your workout buddies hold you accountable for early morning runs, community, camaraderie and feeling a sense of togetherness will drastically improve one’s well-being. Cultivating relationships means picking up the phone when you haven’t talked with a family member in a while, it means checking in on a neighbor who lives alone, offering to cook for a friend in need or simply dropping by with a glass of wine for a front porch catch-up session. On the flip side, know when to ask for help from your community. Whether it’s inviting a friend to do a nutrition challenge with you in which you both share the meal prep tasks or asking a colleague for support on a project, there is power in numbers.
  5. Practice Gratitude Daily — Take notice…do you feel happier when you think about the things you have versus the things you don’t? Practicing gratitude helps to cultivate a sense of positivity and appreciation for what you have — whether it is tangible or intangible. Gratitude focuses on the good aspects of life even during the most challenging situations. A simple way to begin incorporating a gratitude practice into your daily routine is to buy a journal and keep it next to your bed. Pick a time (schedule it if you need to) and jot down one or two things each day you are grateful for. People who practice gratitude tend to elicit positive emotions, express more kindness and compassion, have an easier time sleeping and sticking to goals.

As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?

  1. Exercise is a natural mood booster thanks to the endorphins (happy hormones) that are released during a workout. Exercise also provides a challenge that once finished will elicit feelings of accomplishment which also boost moods. A Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health found that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication.
  2. Exercise improves balance and strength which helps with daily activities (walking up and down stairs, carrying groceries or children, hiking with friends, etc.). This increase in physical abilities can greatly improve mental health and lead to more self-awareness and confidence in life.
  3. Exercise is excellent for your brain. Exercise is linked to improved memory and focus, faster cognitive function and less depression. Exercise improves circulation throughout the body which includes the brain. Regular exercise can improve some symptoms related to neurological disorders (Parkinson’s Disease, Dementia, Alzheimers, etc.) Exercise is a workout for the body, mind and soul.

For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?

  1. Plank — Body-weight only exercise which strengthens core, back, upper, lower body and can be completed anywhere.
  2. Body Weights Squats — Squats can be done anywhere and no special equipment is needed. Squats target the lower body.
  3. Push-ups — Push-ups can also be done anywhere and tailored to fit beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. This is an excellent upper body exercise which requires only body-weight to complete.
  4. *Bonus Exercise” Walking — Walking is a fantastic low-impact, no equipment, easily accessible exercise option for cardiovascular fitness.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

The Book Of Joy

First off the Dalai Lama looks and sounds like my grandpa who passed away two years ago. Whenever I see the cover of this book with his profile on it, it makes me smile. Through conversations between the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, the book aims to teach readers about the importance of practicing joy during the most adversarial times. There was one instance during the book when the narrator shared a personal story about almost losing one of his twins at birth to a prolapsed cord (same cord accident that took my twin son’s life). The narrator used this as an example of a time he felt immense grief which turned into great joy when their twin survived. We were not so lucky and reading this part of the book brought back so many grief-filled emotions that I almost stopped reading. But I preserved and I’m so glad I did because the wisdom about joy was profound.I finished the book acutely aware of all that I have, not what I don’t. We all have different griefs and joys in life and we all deal with unexpected challenges at times. Whether it’s a life goal or a fitness goal, do not let set-backs stop you. Grateful heart, one foot in front of the other, often a few steps back, one foot in front of the other until you get there.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I envision a Movement Therapy or a Wellness Collective practice which in a nutshell is an approach to personal and group training that encourages people to uncover and strengthen their connection between mind and body. Movement Therapy aims to teach people that working out is so much more than weight loss; it is a practice that allows you to release stress, anxiety, fear, grief, etc. while moving. Whether it’s walking, lifting weights, personal training, cycling, flowing; exercise lift spirits, improves focus, sparks joy and is essential to living a happier, healthier life. When people feel better about themselves and their situations, it is easier to commit to regular exercise and foods that nourish the body. I envision people from all backgrounds coming together to workout both in-person and virtually and to connect emotionally and spiritually through fitness trainer/certified therapist-facilitated workshops and retreats. These events would be part of a global Wellness Collective. Exercise helped bring me out of a dark place after I lost my son and I have seen the healing power of fitness time and time again with clients. No matter what they are dealing with and how “stuck” they feel, post-exercise enables them to feel more grounded and in control of situations.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” — Vince Lombardi

In other words, don’t quit. No matter what hand life deals you, don’t let your circumstances prevent you from reaching your goals. Another lesson I live by is not believing that everything happens for a reason. Instead, I believe we have the ability to bring meaning and reason to the experiences that happen to us. We are the architects of our destinys regardless of what challenges arise.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

@KatrinaScott from Tone IT Up built a fitness empire but it is her commitment to sharing the real, raw, hard parts of life (i.e. miscarriage) that I find the most inspiring. She is an incredible role model for so many women and her new brand “Live Beautifully” speaks to all of that.

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Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

Thank you!! Always a pleasure!

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