Fitness To Freedom: Create Inner Peace and Self Confidence by Breaking Unhealthy Cycles

Fitness To Freedom: Create Inner Peace and Self Confidence by Breaking Unhealthy Cycles

by Deirdre Slattery


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Fitness to Freedom is a collection of health, wellness, and fitness stories written for women by women to educate, inspire, and encourage readers to live their best and find their balance. The authors in this book share with other women how we have managed to make health and fitness a lifestyle that fits and works in our lives. It includes everything you wanted to know and more from fitness gurus, athletes, competitors, and fitness instructors, as well as from everyday women who just love fitness and keep active because it’s their passion. This dream team of authors has collaborated to create a rich book full of fitness truths from women warriors who are making health and wellness work in their lives while helping others do the same. We come together with passion, drive, and persistence to live our best lives and share love, commitment, and learning in the hopes of informing and empowering other women to live their best life in and outside of the gym. Contributors include Rachel Balunsat, Pauline Caballero, Heather Chapman, Julia Cochrane, Nadia Dedic, Erica Glassford, Annie Graft, Carol Hanley, Jocelyn Hinz, Amy Howe, Cassie Lambert, Allison Marschean, Violaine Pigeon, Sharlene Rochard, Lola Small, Barb Sotos, Karen Swyszcz, Johanne Walker, Jena Weiss, Tarrah Wynn.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781988736730
Publisher: Golden Brick Road Publishing House
Publication date: 11/12/2019
Pages: 248
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Deirdre Slattery holds a Bachelor of Kinesiology and education from the University of Windsor where she majored in biology and health education. She lives in Stratford, ON. Allison Marschean holds a Bachelor of Science from The United States Military Academy, a Masters of Science from Murray State University, and a Master of Arts from Columbia University’s Teachers College. She lives in Atchison, KS. Amy Howe began her business, Howe Fit, at the young age of nineteen. She is passionate about health promotion and balances and flexible nutrition strategies. She likes in Kingsville, ON. Annie Graft is an active duty Air Force Officer who attended college at the United States Air Force Academy. She also runs her online business, Fit Life Fit Me, to inspire women. She lives in Elgin, SC. Barb Sotos holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Western Ontario and is a gratitude coach and yoga instructor to individuals with newly acquired brain injuries. She lives in Ancaster, ON. Carol Hanley holds an IFBB Pro Card and is a professional athlete. She has had a passion for bodybuilding from a young age and has won first place in North America in two different Middleweight classes. She lives in Mississauga, ON. Cassie Lambert is an Army Veteran and a certified personal trainer specializing in helping women crush the weights with confidence. She lives in Fort Irwin, CA. Erica Glassford is a certified nutrition coach, mindfulness coach, and lifestyle coach. She also holds titles as a Pro Masters Fitness Model and Grand Masters Bikini Champion. She lives in Foothills, AB. Heather Chapman is a certified nutritional practitioner, holds a Bachelor degree with honors in biology and social sciences. She is the creative director of and an educational speaker. She lives in Barrie, ON. Jena Weiss is the owner of The Pound, a successful gym in up-state New York. She holds a degree in psychology from the University of Rochester. She lives in Oxford, NY. Jocelyn Hinz is a yoga instructor and the founder of a global essential oil collective/ She lives in Stratford, ON. Johanne Walker is the co-founder of the Women United Project and focuses on creating a movement that will change the way we look at ourselves. She lives in Toronto, ON. Julia Lefaivre is a teacher turned fitness instructor. She coaches women in fitness and nutrition and runs her podcast, The Thriving Woman. She lives in Cochrane, AB. Karen Swyszcz is a fitness instructor and the creator of Makinthebacon, a blog and social media consulting business. She lives in Oakville, ON. Lola T Small is a growth and success coach for emerging women healers, leaders, and change-makers. She lives in Waterdown, ON. Nadia Dedic is a certified Raw Foods Chef, attended Pachavega vegan culinary school, and hold multiple certifications in fitness and nutrition. She lives in Toronto, ON. Pauline Caballero is the co-founder of Power Yoga Canada, a hot vinyasa studio brand. She lives in Mississauga, ON. Rachel Dolma Balunsat is an award-winning photojournalist, an Ayurvedic health practitioner, and a vegan bodybuilder. She lives in Sebastopol, CA. Sharlene Rochard is a professional model, an actress. She lives in London, ON. Tarrah Wynn studied at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and is the owner of Tarrah Wynn Holistic Health and Nutrition. She lives in Stoney Creek, ON. Violaine Pigeon studied at the University of Montreal as a dietician. She is a motivating nutritionist and a wellness creator. She lives in Terrebonne, QC.

Read an Excerpt



"Our minds are extremely compliant. They carry out what we instruct and accept what we think and say as truth."


Allison's parents instilled in her the importance of "I can" thinking, and over the years, she's had numerous opportunities to apply that lesson. She's excited to share the power that accompanies a mind set on success.

Allison and her husband Vince have three daughters — eight-year-olds Brynn and Piper and two-year-old Jordan. Allison majored in French at The United States Military Academy at West Point, NY and graduated in 2001 with a bachelor of science in systems engineering. She also holds a master of science in management of technology from Murray State University and a master of arts in organizational psychology from Columbia University's Teachers College. Allison is a flat-vending fundraiser. She sells stickers and temporary tattoos to raise funds for non-profit organizations, and has served as an officer in the United States Army and Army Reserves for eighteen years.

fb: @allison.marschean | ig: @allison_marschean

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You can do it!!

Maybe you've heard this a thousand times and maybe you haven't. Either way, guess what? You get to hear it here! The one thought I want you to take away and believe in fully by the end of this chapter is, "Yes! Yes, I can!" All the stories you've been told or are telling yourself that include the words "I can't" — throw them out now!

Did you know that our minds believe what we instruct them to believe? The mind is extremely compliant. It carries out what we instruct and accepts what we think and say as true, even about ourselves. The words we speak and think have the power to either propel us to greatness or hold us back.

Let's say that for a good portion of your formative years, you were told you are uncoordinated and terrible at sports. You've heard the story so often that it has worked its way into your subconscious. Eventually, this becomes the story you tell yourself. For example, even though cycling doesn't take much coordination, you turn down an opportunity to join your friends in a bikeathon because "you are uncoordinated and terrible at sports." This psychological phenomenon is known as a self-fulfilling prophecy; it is what happens when a person's belief influences their behavior in a way that eventually shapes their reality. Essentially, it is a belief that comes true because we think and act as though it is already true.

The term self-fulfilling prophecy, also known as the Pygmalion Effect, was coined in 1948 by sociologist Robert K. Merton; while this effect can play out negatively, it can also work in our favor. When someone's belief about themselves is positive in nature, they tend to experience positive outcomes. Professor Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle from the 1964 film My Fair Lady are terrific examples of how self-fulfilling prophecies play out. Eliza wants to replace her unintelligible Cockney accent with something more refined so she can work in a florist shop; Higgins, a noted phonetician, believes he can remedy her problem. Ultimately, they talk themselves into accomplishing their goals.

As the Bible says, "[t]he tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit." If you tell yourself that you are capable of reaching a fitness level beyond your current abilities, then you are likely to do the work to make it happen, thereby reinforcing your new belief.


I was fortunate to be born to parents who always told me I could achieve anything I set my mind to. They taught me the importance of doing my best and discouraged me from comparing myself and my performance to others. I learned that measuring myself against others was not only unproductive, it was also self-limiting. Spending time pining over how we rate in comparison to someone else is a total energy suck. Evaluating our performance for the sake of self-improvement, however, is both practical and reasonable.

Initially, I applied my parents' instruction primarily to academics. I recall getting frustrated by the fact that I struggled with some subjects that came so easily to other students. Eventually, I came to understand that I needed to spend my energy on learning the material, not on trying to figure out why some other kid understood the concept the first time around. This lesson eventually carried over to other areas of my life and paid dividends.

While I didn't completely stop trying to figure out why some people performed better than I did in some areas, I did redirect my efforts toward strengthening my own abilities. I tried to keep 1 Corinthians 10:31 in mind: "[s]o, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." This meant that I needed to perform to the best of my ability, even when my best was not better than someone else's.

Perhaps you're thinking, "I wasn't as fortunate as Allison; my parents were nothing like hers. They never encouraged me or saw more in me than I saw in myself." You can't alter your past, but you can choose how to move forward with your goal now. There is always a way to move beyond those things that do not serve us; there are always opportunities to begin believing that you can.


Know Your Goal.

When I applied to West Point, one of the application questions asked why I wanted to attend The Military Academy. I listed four reasons, and one of them was to stay in shape — you can't help but stay in shape when you join the military! The U.S. Army does a terrific job providing Soldiers with the standards they need to perform well. Times, repetitions, weights, and scores are all spelled out. There is no guessing what it takes to succeed, and there's no excuse for failing. The first fitness test I had to pass to gain admission to West Point was the Physical Aptitude Examination (PAE). The PAE is a multi-event fitness test that all Candidates must pass to continue with the admissions process. When I received the scoring table, I decided to strive for the top score in every category. My combined score was 582 which was well above the minimum requirement. Always go in knowing your goals and what you need to do to achieve them. Showing up with the ability to achieve the goal you set should be a non-negotiable.

Six years after I took the PAE, I found myself setting another significant goal. I was a Second Lieutenant by then and was determined to earn the Gold German Proficiency Badge. Several events were involved in this challenge, including a swim, a sprint, a weapons proficiency test, and the big one — the thirty-kilometer road march, to be completed in three and a half hours while carrying a twenty-five pound rucksack. I trained for the gold, and the gold is what I earned! I did that thirty-kilometer march in the Arizona heat and beat several of the men on the course. When I passed one guy, he asked if I was on the first loop and was shocked when I told him I was on the second. After I passed him, I set my sights on each person I saw and made it my goal to catch up and pass them as well.

As long as you know the standard and practice the events, you can!

There Will be Setbacks. Do Not be Discouraged.

Your limitations in the present moment are not permanent, or at least many of them aren't. We tend to use anything we view as a limitation in our lives as an excuse not to move forward. Those limitations can range from our socioeconomic status to a sprained ankle to an itchy case of poison ivy or even something more severe, like the loss of a limb or our eyesight. But all these factors can shift. Socioeconomic status can change for the better. A sprained ankle will heal. The incessant itch of poison ivy eventually fades, and even the limitations associated with the loss of a limb or eyesight can be overcome and worked around. We will encounter speed bumps in life. As such, it's imperative to recognize that we have a choice. We can view setbacks as either permanent or temporary.

Over the years, I've experienced physical injuries that temporarily prevented me from accomplishing significant milestones in my military career. I arrived at the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky in late 2001 to serve as an Intelligence Officer in the 716th Military Police Battalion. As a healthy and fit new Second Lieutenant assigned to this historic and noteworthy division (think Band of Brothers), I was acutely aware of the requirement for every officer to be Air Assault-qualified and to proudly wear the coveted Air Assault badge on their uniform.

In an effort to ensure that units send only their best to the Sabalauski Air Assault school, the Army requires candidates to complete a challenging obstacle course and a rigorous twelve-mile road march with full military gear in under three hours. I trained for these challenges and proved that I was fully capable of attending the school. Unfortunately, between the date I completed the road march and the date the course began, I strained muscles around my hip and was not able to attend the course. Since the prequalification test has a shelf-life, it expired before I was fit to start school. This scenario happened again and again. I eventually completed the twelve-mile road march and the obstacle course three times before I ever went to Air Assault school! You can probably imagine how tiresome this was, but as discouraging as setbacks can be, we must keep our end state in mind, reminding ourselves how badly we want it.

Know Your Limits.

To enjoy freedom through fitness, it is also imperative to know your body and its limits at any given point in time. I've spent eighteen years in the United States Army, ten on active duty and eight in the Army Reserves. In the Army, a stigma surrounds people who are injured, like a black cloud following them around. When a Soldier sustains an injury or is ill, he or she goes to the doctor who then writes a medical excuse form called a profile. This places limitations on physical activity. Soldiers who repeatedly receive profiles become known as "Profile Rangers" or "Profile Riders", and all good Soldiers know that "Profile Riders" are weak. At least that's the stigma. Of course, Soldiers do legitimately require a physical profile from time to time, but people who abuse the profile system make difficult for those with real needs. In fact, some people who really should have a medical excusal refuse to get one to avoid the stigma associated with them.

In 2006, I was playing in my last soccer game at Fort Huachuca, Arizona before heading to Fort Lee, Virginia. During the game, I took a spill going for the ball; I left the emergency room later that night with a half cast and crutches. My left foot was destroyed. What was my new command going to think of their new staff officer?

I showed up to my new unit with a profile and one soft orthopedic Velcro shoe. It was embarrassing. You never want to show up to new unit with an injury or a profile. It makes for a poor first impression. I'll never forget when I first met with the Deputy Commander. He asked me, "So, how'd ya hurt your foot?" When I answered, "Soccer," he gave a short laugh and said, "Soccer? Okay," as if he found it hard to believe.

Several months, numerous doctor appointments, and one fall off a folding chair later, I learned that I'd sustained a Lisfranc injury: all of the ligaments that held my midfoot together were torn. By April 2007, I was fully recovered and worked up to running the two-mile physical fitness test again. It wasn't my fastest time, but given the circumstances, I did rather well. For most of my time in the unit up to that point, I hadn't been able to run, so most people in the unit had no idea what I was capable of. At the end of that two-mile run, a female Soldier said, "Ma'am! I didn't know you could run!"

Injuries and setbacks suck. However, you must get past yourself and your ego and allow your body to heal. Remember that your body will be with you longer than your present circumstances. You've got to take care of yourself.

Be Your Greatest Competition.

"Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load." - Galatians 6:4-5 NIV

In 2013, someone saw me in my Army uniform in the library and invited me to meet her trainer to see about joining his fitness competition team. In her opinion, he wouldn't have to do much to get me ready to compete. While I was flattered, I tucked the idea away for over a year. By summer 2015, the timing was right and finances were available, so I connected with the trainer and got to work. During the month of August, I was traveling so I practiced at-home workouts. In September and October, I worked with the trainer once a week and worked out on my own the other days of the week to get ready for a November competition. I didn't have much time to prepare; however, I'd made up my mind to do the work required to be stage-ready.

I wasn't in it to win. Believe it or not, the thought of standing on a stage in a bikini did not thrill me — I don't even wear bikinis. I was in it because someone saw something in me that I'd never considered, and I wanted to go for it. I simply set out to do my personal best. When competition time came around, there were definitely women who had less body fat than me and women who had been training longer, but given the short timeline, I was proud of what I accomplished. An added bonus was taking second place in the Military Division! I've found that when our modus operandi is to see how we measure up to others, our subconscious minds dwell on that comparison even when we're not actively sizing up those around us. I could not have done my best if I had been focused on comparing myself with the other competitors.


Optimism Can Be Learned: The Origins of an Optimistic Mindset.

Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., defines our outlook on life and our habitual explanation for events as an explanatory style; unlike portions of our intelligence and other psychological traits, these explanatory styles are learned, not inherited. We learn optimism and pessimism as children from our primary caretakers. In general terms, whatever a primary caretaker's explanatory style is, the child will develop a similar style. The good news is that the explanatory styles developed in childhood can be overridden and replaced with new habits that promote optimism.

Visualization Works!

I receive periodic emails from motivational speaker and "cheerleader of dreams" Terri Savelle Foy. In the midst of writing this chapter, I received an email entitled Visualizing Will Change Your Destiny. While I don't know what my destiny is, I have experienced the power of visualization in my own life. My parents introduced me to visualization. On more than one occasion, they had me close my eyes and see myself successfully accomplishing the task at hand. For instance, when there was a gymnastics move I was struggling with or was just afraid to try, I'd close my eyes and watch myself doing it perfectly. I played it like a tape on a loop in my head over and over. I applied this same exercise to pitching in softball, taking tests in school, and even applying for highly sought-after assignments in the military. Try it for yourself. Repeatedly see yourself accomplishing your goal in your mind's eye and experience the power that follows.

You can do it! Yes! Yes, you can!



"Conformity keeps us safe and trapped. A free and happy life begins by first noticing what it is we truly desire and then being grateful for every step on the journey to achieving it."


Barb Sotos is passionate about helping people cultivate awareness and gratitude in order to live a life more aligned with their desires. This passion led her to become a yoga teacher. Barb holds a bachelor of science from the University of Western Ontario and has completed yoga teacher training, along with certifications in restorative yoga, yoga with weights, and indoor cycling. Barb is a gratitude coach and is working toward a holistic weight loss expert certification. She developed and ran an empowerment camp for girls and also leads workshops on identifying personal desires and creating a vision for a life incorporating those desires. She teaches yoga at corporate locations and at various gyms and studios, as well as at the Regional Rehab Centre to individuals with newly acquired brain injuries.

Barb makes people feel safe when they need to express their feelings, and she has a talent for bringing a calm positivity into a space. Her clients have described her as "a teacher who has a wonderful ability to mix the physical challenge of each practice with a thoughtful dose of mindfulness. She seems to have the intuitive ability to know precisely when you need to calm your thoughts and not let your mind race away during any part of your practice."


Excerpted from "Fitness to Freedom"
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Copyright © 2019 Golden Brick Road Publishing House.
Excerpted by permission of Golden Brick Road Publishing House Inc..
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Table of Contents

Section 01 The Freedom to Achieve

Chapter 01 I Can Allison Marschean 15

Chapter 02 Lost and Found Barb Sotos 27

Chapter 03 When the Best Is Not Enough Violaine Pigeon 37

Chapter 04 Gym Therapy Cassie Lambert 47

Section 02 The Freedom to Compete in a Healthy Way

Chapter 05 Nothing to Lose Jena Weiss 59

Chapter 06 Making A Comeback Erica Glassford 71

Chapter 07 The Power of Persistence Annie Graft 83

Section 03 The Freedom to Transform

Chapter 08 Howe Food Saved Me Amy Howe 95

Chapter 09 Keep Moving: Finding the Blessing in Every Lesson Heather Lee Chapman 105

Chapter 10 My Journey to Becoming a Viking Ninja Warrior Nadia Dedic 117

Chapter 11 Super Model, Super Mom Sharlene Rochard 129

Chapter 12 Monsoon Rachel Balunsat 139

Section 04 The Freedom to Self-Love

Chapter 13 Under the Surface Tarrah Wynn 153

Chapter 14 The Power of Choice Johanne Walker 163

Chapter 15 Home Is Where Your Body Is Jocelyn Hinz 175

Chapter 16 The Choice Is Always Yours Pauline Caballero 185

Section 05 The Freedom to Help Others

Chapter 17 How Fitness Shaped Me into The Person I Am Today Karen Swyszcz 197

Chapter 18 When We Learn, We Teach Carol Hanley 209

Chapter 19 The Path to Priority: YOU! Julia Lefaivre 217

Chapter 20 Empower the World with Your Presence Lola T. Small 225

Chapter 21 Free to Be Me Deirdre Slattery 237

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