Hello, Again!

It’s been quite some time since I’ve published anything here and I want to take a moment to reintroduce myself. My name is Ashley Lemieux and I reside in New Hampshire with my husband, Jameson, our dog, Chip, and six chickens. In 2016 we bought a fixer upper that has great bones and we’ve slowly been making improvements to create a home that fits our personalities and needs. Home improvement and design projects are very satisfying to me and I find them to be a great hobby and passion of mine. I’ll be sharing some of our projects here on the blog.

Professionally I am a fitness and health coach. I work at a gym called OPEX Hampstead, right here in southern NH. My brother Kyle owns the gym so I am fortunate to work with him each day. Some people ask if it is challenging to work with a family member, and while I see how it could be, I find it to be quite rewarding and enjoyable. I believe that we work well together because we have created lives outside of business that we love and enjoy and over the years we have learned how our work styles fit together.

At OPEX Hampstead we offer personalized fitness and nutrition plans. It’s a unique model of fitness where each client works directly with myself or Kyle, completes their workouts in the gym or remotely when it’s convenient for them, and gets to be part of our inviting and supportive community of members. After almost 15 years of experience in the health and fitness industry I have found a mode of fitness that makes a lot of sense to me and gets people the results they want.

I am passionate about bringing truth to health and fitness. Mainstream fitness and nutrition culture creates the notion that health and fitness are easily achievable in a short amount of time. There are billions of dollars worth of products, programs, and supplements for sale that make us believe that we need to be fixed. In reality we need to find a fitness plan that works for our lifestyle and practice eating real food on a consistent basis. True health and fitness is a simple concept that it actually very challenging to realize. It is my mission to help people figure out how to make health attainable for their life. I want to honor each individual and I want to offer my knowledge and experience and lead by example.

I selected Ashley Finding Balance as the name of my blog several years ago. The concept of balance is rampant in the health industry and after years of trying to “find it” I actually believe that it may not exist in the way we think it should. Balance is about creating a lifestyle that is satisfying and fulfilling for you, and that means it may be different for everyone. For example, a person who works 70 hours per week may not appear “balanced” to an outsider, but that work may bring him or her so much joy and fulfillment that without it they feel a sense of imbalance. Perhaps that 70 hours of work doesn’t feel like work and they are able to reach all of their goals and desires for life. We have to be careful not to judge balance for others or be too critical of ourselves for feeling like “nothing is in balance”. We must work to recognize when something seems out of whack and pursue a plan for making it feel better for our life. That, my friend, is finding balance. 

I look forward to the year ahead and hope you will join me on this journey!

Where you can find me:

Instagram @ashleyrochefort
Facebook Personal @ashleylemieux
Facebook Page Find Your Balance Nutrition & Lifestyle
Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and Spotify where I co-host the Long Live Fitness Podcast

ashl reintro

Love.

My yoga teacher read this last night during savasana at the very end of class. It nearly brought me to tears. During this holiday season remind yourself that you are loved, you are love, and you are perfect and enough – just the way you are.

love-courtney-walsh

Update to Read More

I have been trying to read more frequently. During the day if I have a spare chunk of time I will pick up a book. What I have been noticing while I read is how distracted I am. Mostly I am distracted by my phone. Anyone else have this issue? Stupid phone. So important, yet so not important.

I have also tried to split my time reading between material for my professional endeavors and for pleasure. It’s really nice to just escape into the pages of a story. But there is also a lot of reading that needs to be done for learning. I’ll keep working at this.

Last weekend, Jameson and I took a Sunday drive up to the Plymouth/Holderness area for a little hike, fresh mountain air, and lunch at the Boiler Room. It brought back a ton of great memories for me since I went to college at Plymouth State and then worked there for a year after graduation. I just had so many fun times with amazing people up there. I definitely feel at home when I visit.

View of Squam Lake

View of Squam Lake

Us.

Us.

No Filter. The sky was actually that blue. Being silly, taking selfies.

No Filter. The sky was actually that blue. Being silly, taking selfies.

The Fort CrossFit’s Member of the Month. Charlene Rochefort, my Mom.

April has been a month of highs and lows. I think that’s just how life is most of the time. I wrote a blog post about change a few weeks ago, and got a lot of positive feedback about it. Most people admitted that change is something they struggle with regularly. I think that being able to spin change that occurs in our life in a positive direction is very important. It’s sometimes difficult to not view change from a victim point of view; as in “why has this happened to me?”

In my life, my mother has been the person that has taught me the greatest lessons about dealing with change and adversity. She helped me see that viewing change negatively will not do anyone any good, and she has helped me to value change as an important learning tool for living. My mom has also been steadfast in assuring me that making decisions is important and staying true to your decisions while moving forward in a positive direction is how we change and grow. It’s not always easy, but it works. 

My brother, Kyle, and I have had the pleasure of working with both of our parents for the last few years as they each began their CrossFit journey. They supported Kyle when he began working out with people in our basement, and gave him the courage to rent his first garage space back in 2011. Our mother’s transformation has been amazing. I always remember her being a role model for me when it came to eating  healthy foods and living an active life. As I got older I began to pick up on the adulthood struggle with weight. My mom always called it a “constant battle”. I always wondered why it was so hard and if I would have to face it myself at some point. After 3 years of consistently working out and eating a healthy, whole-foods diet without grains and refined sugar Mom has won that battle. She is one of the most dedicated members, she listens, takes time to work on weaknesses, and participates in the wonderful community of TFCF. We often joke the she is aging backwards, or “getting younger with age”, like the movie character, Benjamin Button. 

I am so thrilled to recognize Charlene, known around the gym as Char, as The Fort’s April Member of the Month. Congrats, Mom, you deserve it. Please read about Char’s journey, in her own words, below.

  

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Char Summer 2013

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Char Summer 2010

First off, thank you for this recognition; this is something that I never EVER considered for myself.  I actually cried when I read the email from Ashley and then I thought……they must be joking with me!  Ash assured me that it was not a joke and that I should write about the journey. 

So here goes…….My journey has been in the works for about three years.  I started with the sole purpose of being able to converse with my kids in this new language…..burpees, paleo, WODs, AMRAPs, DUs… In the beginning, Kyle had the pleasure of meeting me in the basement at 5AM and taking me through the movements. This has probably been his biggest lesson in patience so far!  Let me be clear, I have never played a sport, I’m not competitive and not quick to grasp movement cues.  So time has passed and I have plugged along consistently doing banded pull-ups, and modified movements.  Little by little, the bands have gotten thinner and the modifications have become less.  I’ve practiced the hell out of double-unders (DUs) and now can do 20-25 unbroken pretty consistently. I’ve done the same with pushups and have that skill now too. Consistent practice is my key to learning.  I really love the EMOMs and lifting cycles  because the repetition helps me GET IT.  I was able to hit a front squat PR of 155 this week and was thrilled! (Thanks Ash for the magic shoes!)  I also was able to do 2 deadhang pullups …….those were a LONG time coming!  I struggle with overhead movements and wall balls but little by little, as my mobility, strength and coordination improve, I make some progress.

The paleo journey has a similar timeline and has been the other key to changing my body composition and improving my overall health.  These changes have been slow and steady just like in the gym.  I’ve lost 20-25 lbs and 3-4 clothing sizes.  The paleo lifestyle has become very satisfying to me and I seldom feel deprived or have cravings. 

My journey is simply about consistency; coming through the door and doing the best I can on that particular day.  I compete with only myself but LOVE witnessing the progress and transformations of my FORTmates.  The safe, positive environment of the FORT, our AMAZING coaches and programming provide the template for mastery, we just need to show up, listen and work hard.

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Char, the DU master!

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Char & Dave, TFCF Halloween Party

Core Values

Core Values…what are they?

I was recently asked to complete an exercise where the first part was to define my core values. It was work-related, so I focused on core values relating to my work. It took me a while, but I finally wrote down my responses. I knew there were no right and wrong answers, but I wasn’t quite satisfied. A few weeks later, I was thinking about completing the same exercise for my own personal life. I had a really hard time defining these core values. I was disturbed by this. Am I a bad person? Why am I struggling with this simple task? Is it simple? Do others struggle with this?

sunset

I looked up some articles on defining core values and it helped me to understand how to think about them in relation to my everyday life. A description that helped me went a little like this: Your core values are like the stars in your sky. You can look to them for guidance no matter where you are. What steers your ship?

Okay, now we were getting somewhere…

I sat in front of my computer for a while, trying to redo this exercise and figure out “the stars in my sky”. I still felt like a terrible, soul-less person. star-less person. But then I began to type. I began to write about concepts that make me who I am. I was describing my core values, I was just having trouble thinking of a single word to go along with them. Maybe I do have stars in my sky after all!

I found this exercise to be motivating and very thought-provoking. As children we are (hopefully) taught about values and they become instilled in us by our parents and other significant people in our lives. As adults we can choose to continue with those same values and live our lives by them or toss them out the window for different ones that fit with our adult selves.

This is what I came up with for myself:

  1. Drive. I always feel a need to be better, whether it’s in my job or my personal life; I always want to continue to journey of being better than I am.
  2. Integrity. Always striving to do what’s right, even when it’s hard. Living the life that aligns with your values. This can be HARD!
  3. Education & Learning. Always continuing to learn and become more knowledgeable.
  4. Fun. Remembering to have fun and life; taking time to laugh and enjoy.
  5. Family. These are the people that you spend time with. They are there for you no matter what.

I would challenge you to take on this exercise. Make this list. It may evolve over time. Sit down and really think about how you operate. What are the stars that guide you through everyday life? How do you make decisions? How do you handle tough situations?

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Throwback Thursday #TBT

Lately people have been posting photos with the hashtag #tbt. It’s so catchy because the photos are older; they’re a blast from the past and sometimes just plain hilarious. I thought it would be fun to create a #tbt blogpost of photos of some of my friends, people who you might know from the gym. I also wanted to include current photos so you can say, “My, how things have changed…”

Here we go!

 
 KT! Plain white T.
 
 Matt. Nice shorts.
Jameson. Box jumps and khakis!

FJ. Around 2 years between these pictures. Still likes the comic heroes.
And then there’s this guy…
 
Kyle. Whoa. Nice work, “little” brother!

Sick…again.

I have succumbed to yet another cold. First it was a sinus infection that lingered forevveerrr. This time around feels like the classic common cold. What gives?! I supposedly take good care of myself. I sleep well, exercise, eat better than most, and drink lots of water. Or do I? I’ve been evaluating what’s really, truly happening day-to-day. Here’s what really going on.

Strike 1. Before the holidays I was super-stressed. I don’t know why but I just had a lot of anxiety. So much so that I lost my appetite for a while. This is very rare for me. Since then I have been eating much better, thankfully. During the holidays I also ate a lot more sugar than usual. Alcohol intake was way up, water intake was way down.

Strike 2. Although I sleep at least 8 hours most nights, last weekend the Patriots played a late game and I was up until almost 1 in the morning. Awesome win, bummer for the internal clock. This was probably enough to lower my immunity.

Strike 3. Although I consider my life low-stress, it’s really not the case. When I workout, which is almost every day, that puts stress on my body. Leading 2-4 busy CrossFit classes every day is also high-energy. It’s not your typical “this-is-stressful” scenario, but the body doesn’t really know the emotional difference, it only knows the physiological response. Busy lifestyles are full of stressors.

So, now that I struck out and got taken down by another cold, I need to start thinking about taking care of myself. Sleep is an easy fix for me. I just go to bed earlier. Thankfully I have the luxury of doing that. I have cut way back on the sugar and booze since the holidays and upped the water intake. The stress is where I am going to struggle. Maybe sleeping more will make up for a busy daily lifestyle the stresses out my body? Also known as recovery.

For now I am going to keep eating oranges, drinking water, and resting on the couch.

Anyone know of any great cold remedies? Post them here or on Facebook!

And So It Begins…

Thanksgiving marks the start of the holiday season. From now until the end of December is what many refer to as, “The most wonderful time of the year!” I really love the holidays. Cozy fireplaces, scarves, and sweaters; twinkling lights and evergreen garland; hot beverages and sweet treats. It all brings back really good childhood memories, so the nostalgia is nice.

What I am not crazy about is all the greediness that goes along with holiday gift-giving. I feel like gifts should be meaningful and thoughtful. I can’t imagine being thankful for something knowing that someone had to plow down another person at Walmart at four in the morning to get it. I mean, I can understand parents buying toys for kids and wanting to get amazing deals, but resorting to violence, really?! I know that these are extreme cases that we see on TV, but it speaks to something greater about our society. Something that we probably shouldn’t be proud of.

Okay, that’s it for my little rant about all that craziness.

What do we have, 23 days until Christmas or something like that…? Yikes. Time goes by way too fast. I’m just getting around to thinking about what I am thankful for. My family, my friends, my boyfriend, my warm socks and scarves, my job, my home, and food. On Thanksgiving, when we were all talking about what we were thankful for before we ate, I couldn’t really narrow down my list or think of something succinct to say, so I said nothing. It kind of bothered me. Was this an indication that my heart really is dark and cold?! But I’ve been thinking about it for a few days now. I think what’s going on is that I am very fortunate and I have so much to be thankful for that I really just couldn’t narrow down the list. They say that gratitude goes a long way. I’ve never been able to practice putting my gratitude into words on a daily basis, but I think it’s something that could help me to be more positive in day-to-day life. Maybe if I think about it more, or even write it down, I will have more to say at Thanksgiving next year.

Also, if more people thought about what they already have and how thankful they are for that stuff, maybe they wouldn’t feel so compelled to go out and elbow drop others for flat screen TVs. Just a thought.

Thanksgiving Prosecco. 

I would be nowhere without these people. 

Thankful for comic relief. Is that Clark Griswold? That tree was frikken huge.

What are you thankful for this year? Post comments here, or to Facebook!

Breaking the Cycle

Do you ever feel like you are stuck in some kind of negative cycle? It’s really difficult to get out of those cycles without focused, dedicated, honest effort. Since I am a tried-and-true sugar addict I can admit that I have been stuck in many a cycle like this. I eat too many treat and have too many drinks, I crave it more, I eat more of it, and then I can’t seem to shake it. This can happen with your nutrition, your commitment to the gym, and even in your relationships.

EAT SUGAR –> CRASH –> WANT MORE SUGAR –>
How do you break this chain?

Part of the reason I chose to participate in the Lurong Paleo Challenge for the second year is that I was finding it hard to break the cycle on my own. I would go for a week or two of squeaky clean eating and then I would justify baking treats or buying some chocolate, or having just one more margarita. Summer cocktails was a major part of the issue. Then it became clear and my inner voice said, “Girl, you betta check yo’self before you wreck yo’self!” I knew that I would have lots of great social support in the gym since so many other people were signing up as well. I was also feeling nostalgic for last year’s experience; it was memorable and I become closer to many people.

We’re half way through the challenge and I can’t believe how fast the time goes. Last year felt slower as I didn’t know what to expect. There are many positive changes that have come from this experience so far.

1. I am thoroughly enjoying cooking and trying new recipes.
2. I sleep better and wake feeling energized and rested.
3. I have more steady energy throughout the day.
4. I don’t crave sugar like crazy.
5. The hunger and full signals I get from my body are much clearer.
6. Performance in the gym is better and training is more enjoyable.
7. I feel lighter, though I’ve only lost a few pounds.
8. My clothes fit better.
9. I am in a better mood.
10. Allergies have improved from how bad they were. I’m not as congested (unless I have the allowed 6 oz. of wine).

I’d say that’s a pretty damn good list. I remember feeling this way last year and I wanted to feel this good again. How could I not!? I have been taking photos just about every day that I work out. Here’s a sneak preview. I will save the rest for my final post.

September 16th to October 14th

I haven’t figured out a sure-fire way to break the negative cycles other than commitment to hard work and a dedication to making real personal change. The benefits of change must outweigh the negatives of what you must give up in order to make the change. So, in this instance, for me, feeling this amazing again was completely worth giving up chocolate and margaritas and the occasional Udi’s bagel. I also knew that I would have the social support that I would need to get through all 8 weeks. Being in a supportive environment and preparing yourself to be set up for success if critical to making positive, sustainable change.

Other things that have helped me along the way are:
– Avoiding boredom
– Being prepared with plenty of food to choose from
– Finding inspiration in new recipes
– Eating enough so that I don’t feel deprived
– Planning fun activities for the weekends, like bowling and hiking

I’d love to know how you are feeling if you’re participating in the challenge. Also, what ruts or negative cycles do you find yourself in? And how do you find your way out of them?