20. Empowering Women Through Fitness & Wellness with Stephanie Mitchell

In this episode, Stephanie shares key tips and strategies for strengthening & empowering yourself, such as self-awareness, fitness, meditation, and mindfulness. She talks about how you can create a routine that sets you up for success, in addition to how school leaders can empower and inspire young women.

About Stephanie Mitchell:

Stephanie Mitchell owns and runs her own personal training and wellness business. She is passionate about helping women feel empowered and strong by teaching strength training and mindfulness. Stephanie believes that when we work on strength, inside and out, and we practice mindfulness and meditation, we feel confident to take what we learn and practice into other areas of our lives and we have the confidence to act and work towards our goals.

Find Stephanie Mitchell:

Show Transcript

Tara: Welcome to Mindful School Marketing. I’m Tara Claeys. 

Aubrey: And I’m Aubrey Bursch. Today, we’re joined by Stephanie Mitchell. Stephanie Mitchell owns and runs her training and wellness business. She is passionate about helping women feel empowered and strong by teaching strength training and mindfulness.

Stephanie believes that when we work on strength inside and out, and we practice mindfulness and meditation, we feel confident to take what we learn and practice into other areas of our lives and we have the confidence to act and work towards our goals. Welcome, Stephanie. We’re so excited you’re here!

Stephanie: Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited.

Tara: I’m excited, I’m excited to have you on the show. I know we’re sort of neighbors and have a lot of friends in common, and I’m really glad that you joined us today. Can you start by sharing a little bit of your background, telling us your story? Tell us as much about yourself as you want to.

Stephanie: Sure. So just FYI originally from this area from Woodbridge, Virginia, and, but grew up in North Carolina. So I was raised there and once I graduated high school, went to East Carolina University where I met my now husband of almost 20 years. We celebrate in November, very excited. But we, yeah, we went to east Carolina and as soon as I graduated east Carolina, I came right on up here and began a career in worksite, health promotion.

When I had gone to. I wanted to be a physical therapist, but after the third time of taking chemistry and not being able to get past the periodic table, I probably wasn’t going to be for me. So I luckily fell into a program called health education with a focus in worksite health promotion, and graduated with that degree and came up here and began a career working for companies to educate employees and employers on how to reduce healthcare costs to keep people healthy. So that their bottom line was better and they could make more money and not spend everything on healthcare. So that was my career. And about 2007, my son was one and I decided to become a stay-at-home mom.

So I left my job with Arlington County Government in their Employee Wellness to be a stay-at-home mom and loved that. I loved that job. I loved my career, but it was just, it was going to be, make a little bit more sense for our family just to stay at home. And we then had our daughter and when she turned five in 2013 and started kindergarten that’s when I decided I was going to go back to work and Stephanie Mitchell Fitness was born and I’ve just had a ball ever since.

So I am an Arlingtonian myself. I, we have our two kids who are now teenagers and we have our dog and Ozzy. He was just as sweet as can be. And that’s where we got. 

Aubrey: I’m so curious. Can you tell us a little bit about the program that you run? What is the focus for I’m just curious, being in the area and being into fitness and wellness, I would love to hear more.

Stephanie: So I’ve evolved over the last couple of years. I’ll be real honest. The business started in 2013 and in 2018, I did shut it down for a year and a half because I wasn’t feeling great. And I needed to take time to figure out what my next path was. And in fact, funny enough, I will say I wanted to do something a little bit more,

I wanted to go a little bit deeper with people. I wanted to do something different. In fact, The funny thing is I almost thought about going to like theology school or become some sort of spiritual counselor doing some work like Brene Brown, but anyway, luckily for most people, I came back to personal training and what I did do was, I went to do an online certification through the Chopra Center For Meditation.

Then that led me into an Ayurveda certification. And now I’m becoming a certified wellness coach through Chopra. I’ve done a lot of education over the past few years, and I’ve also done a lot of research and studies with women over 40 and the perimenopausal and menopausal year. So the bread and butter of Stephanie Mitchell fitness, is in deep personal training, but where I’ve shifted my focus in the last few years, since I reopened in 2020 was for women over 40.

And so my niche is strong, mindful, feisty females, over 40 that’s, who I serve and what I want to do is to work with women and empower them to feel their best in their forties and beyond. And to me, I think strength training helps that it, when we strength train, it helps us feel good about ourselves physically and emotionally.

And by teaching meditation and practicing mindfulness, we can feel a little bit calmer and all of those things help us be a little bit more feisty, which helps us feel more confident and do the things we want need to do with ease. So that’s what I’m doing now.

Tara: Yeah, I love that. And I also am a fitness person. I’m going to ask you about meditation because you said you’re certified or you teach that and practice it. And that as somebody who enjoys fitness every day, cardio if I can. I have a really hard time with meditation and I think I have tried it numerous times.

I have listened to the books. I have, the apps, I have all the things, and I think it hasn’t stuck with me because I haven’t felt a difference. And so like I would rather go out and do exercise to feel good than to meditate. But all the research, all the people say you have to meditate. And I’m probably a lot of our listeners feel this way too.

I know I’m not alone. So I’d love to hear, like, how does it feel like, should I be waiting for that, like that spark to fly? Do I just have to keep doing it, am I going to actually feel different or do I just keep doing it? Because I’m supposed to? 

Stephanie: So the thing to remember with meditation is it’s a practice and it’s important to remember, to not have an expectation around your practice.

I’m also a runner and you know how sometimes you go out and you have a great run and sometimes you just run and because you’re running and, it’s good for you. I equate meditation a little bit too. That some days you’re just meditating for me because I know it’s good for me. And it’s my practice.

It’s no different than a run for me. I get up every morning at 4:00 AM. I spend 30 minutes meditating before I start my day. When I run, I know when I’m going to try to get out there every day to run. And it’s my, that’s what I do for myself. There are some days where a light might go off where you are just like, oh, wow.

And to me it’s like with running, you start to notice, oh, things are changing a little bit, or maybe it’s getting a little bit easier that hill on Williamsburg, things come together for you in a different way because of your running practice or because of that meditation practice. And so that’s what it is for me.

But meditation, it just for me everyday, like I said, I get up, I do it for 20 to 30 minutes. I have my mantra that I use and I think what we all have to remember is to let go of the expectation. And if it’s a practice, you choose, you just surrender to that practice. You have your ritual or routine around it.

And over time you start to see how it shows up in your life, if you will. You start to see and notice differences. You start to notice the synchronicities of life and how they, and maybe you’re open to more of the messages that kind of come to you. I can give a quick example of what I’m talking about. I had really, I had begun meditation in 2005 when I was trying to get pregnant with my son because my doctor was telling me I was a stress case needed to chill out.

And so I had my meditation practice for a while. Went away from it when my kids were younger, came back to it as they got older. And about the time it started to really deepen again, as I was trying to create Stephanie Mitchell fitness for the second time and rebrand it and come up and I was like, I want a different website.

I want all these things to happen. And. I remember thinking, gosh, I wish I could work with someone who worked with small businesses on websites. I didn’t know where to go. And I had that thought one day and the very next day up first thing on Facebook was design powers, Evelyn Powers. And she helped me with my website.

And I reached out to her and I was like, funny enough. I had worked with Evelyn before, when I worked at the county and I reached out to her and I said, Hey, I don’t have any idea. If you’re going to remember me. We worked together years ago. But I’m trying to rebrand my company, get a new website. Would love your help.

If you work with folks like me she responded immediately. It was like, oh my gosh. I literally was just telling my niece about you yesterday. And the work we had done with the part of the county that you had been with. That to me is a result of being open, being aware, being ready, the universe has your back type thing.

That’s how I see meditation show up and meditation. The practice of meditation is about quieting the mind being still and being open to the things that come. 

Aubrey: That’s so helpful. And I appreciate the message that it’s not always perfect and it’s not supposed to feel like some sort of woo all the time. I just manage five minutes a day.

It used to be longer, but now I’m like hanging on by a thread with five minutes a day. But I will tell you I was so snappy to my kids one day and my husband’s like, what’s going on? And I’m like, I haven’t meditated for three days in a row. So it gives me like that added measure of. Okay, I’m going to chill out.

I’m going to respond to this situation without getting crazy, snappy, which is not my natural personality. I’m not a snappy person in general. So thank you for sharing that. I do, as this podcast, we talk about mindfulness, which is why this is so perfect that you’re on.

And most of our discussions, revolve around like how it applies to working in the school environment. Right now many, but of course not all school marketers and administrators are women. So while your focus is on women, I think the concept of strength training, nutrition, mindfulness, meditation, applies to everyone at a school.

So I would love to hear, like, how did these things relate to job work performance? 

Stephanie: There is research out there that shows that if you are healthy, you’re going to perform better. That’s just the reality. If you’re feeling good, if you feel strong, you’re going to perform better. If you’re eating well there, I wish I could quote the research, but there is something out there that, or there’s at least a saying out there where.

If you’re putting good things in your body, if you’re feeding your body, what it needs, it’s almost like you have a different level of respect for yourself. But if you’re feeding it well and you’re moving it and you’re taking care of it, you are going to show up with a little bit more confidence.

If you’re practicing mindfulness and meditation, In the workplace, you’re going to show up maybe a little bit more calm. You might be a little bit less reactive to something that could frustrate you easily. You might show up differently in your work relationships, things aren’t going to get to you as easily as they want to do.

So with regards to performance, I think people are going to show up with more confidence. They’re going to be a little bit more calm. Your relationships are going to be stronger. And I think when you feel confident and you feel strong inside and out and you have all these practices. I think it’s good for leadership.

You exude confidence in a different way because you feel a little bit better. So that’s how I feel. It shows up for work. 

Tara: That’s an excellent point, right? All the things that you’re saying, make total sense from meditation to nutrition, all of those things. But here’s the tough question, right?

 For many of us, we are busy, busy is the thing to be right? We have a lot going on and people who work in schools, oftentimes they have their own children at home. They’re getting their own kids off to school. They’re going to their job. They’re working late, they come home, they got to help the kids with the homework, make dinner, do all those things.

When the heck do they have time to meditate and exercise? How do you fit that in? You said you get up at 4:00 AM. Not a lot of people do that. So how do you help people to create routines and habits to incorporate these healthy habits into their life? 

Stephanie: The first thing I would say is. It’s up to everybody to understand their world.

What I do that works for me, isn’t going to work for everybody. People aren’t gonna want to get up at 4:00 AM, but my day begins at five. And I can tell you I’m not running at 4:00 AM. I’m getting up to meditate because that’s important to me and I journal every morning. There’s the first two things I do as soon as I get up.

But then once my day starts and after I’ve had my first client, one of the things that I am practicing for myself, because I work from five, I have an appointment every hour on the hour between five and noon, and I have a 15 minute break in between. So one of those breaks is for breakfast. And one of those breaks is for a morning snack.

The other times when I’m breaking, if I’m not doing administrative work, I’m trying to do. Maybe I choose to do three sets of deadlifts. Maybe I choose to do an abs series or an upper body series, or I try to run a mile around my block and I know that sounds silly. But that’s how I’m fitting it in the morning because by the time lunchtime gets here, I want lunch.

I need to do things around the house before the kids get home and then forget it. Once three o’clock hits and those kids are home, we’re onto the races. It’s soccer, it’s horseback riding. It’s all the things that we all have to do is as parents, or even if you’re not a parent, you just have stuff that you have to do.

Maybe you have meetings to attend for work or, social engagements and it let’s face it by the time the end of the day comes. Everybody’s a little bit more tired. So what I coach my clients to do is to know what their schedule is. And I believe that if fitness and wellness are important to you, you are going to figure out what works for your day.

You’re going to know when you have a break. And what I encourage people to do is to figure out, look at your day, see where you have a gap and where you can fit something in for yourself. I’m not going to know what that is for everybody. I’m not going to know what your days is, but you do. And you’re going to know what is important to you.

If you want to become more calm and you want to fit meditation in, you’re going to say, okay I’m going to squeeze in a 10 minute and listen to it, meditation or practice it. If fitness is important to you or getting stronger as important to you, you’re going to figure out, you know what I’ve got a minute or maybe why I’m on this conference call, I’m going to do some squats at my desk.

So I think what’s important for people to realize is understand what your schedule is, what your goals are and meet somewhere in the middle and just start small. It doesn’t, most people are like, oh my god, I want to lose 20 pounds or, oh my god, I want to run a marathon. Start small, figure out one little thing you can do a day. And just stay consistent with that and then build on that as time goes on, I would say that’s probably one of the most important pieces is just start small, take one little step and then build as time goes on, but don’t try to, do the whole thing in one week or in one day.

Tara: That’s great advice. I want to add to that a little bit too, in my experience, accountability, having, like having somebody that is expecting you to be there at a certain time, I think also really helps. And I know as you have clients who hire you,and they have to show up. So that or have a walking buddy or a running buddy or somebody that you do work with would be also something that I, but has absolutely works for me.

Cause I know on the days when no one’s expecting me. I can make a lot of excuses to not show up. 

Stephanie: Laundry has never looked so good!

Aubrey: That is so true. I would say I used to belong to Class Pass a long time ago and they would have a $15 cancellation fee if you didn’t show up to the class. And I was, it was like, oh, the kids were up like sick during the night, but it was. I cannot, I better get there. So I’m up at five o’clock in the morning go into the class.

So I do think that accountability system works. I was also going to add what I found helpful. And I also read it in a book recently was letting go with perfection with your workout and being okay with let’s say, this happens to me frequently. Like my goal was like, I’m going to do 10 minutes on Peloton and then I’m a lift for 20 minutes and then I’m.

Do 10 minutes of abs and I’ll also get to get a 60 minute walk today. And then I have a bad night, like with the kids up or my work meetings got pushed and someone, ended up at 8:00 AM meeting. And so just saying, Hey, what can I still take from that? Maybe it’s five minute walk plus a five minute abs, like maybe it’s just cutting it down and still remain, keeping the consistency, but that perfectionist model of it has to be done this way or else it doesn’t count, or I’m not making a difference that has truly helped me. Cause I tend to be tied to those. Let’s go hard. And 

Stephanie: we have to have grace and compassion with ourselves. I would say if there’s anything. And luckily I’m reading right now.

This book fear self-compassion by Kristin Neff who I just adore. But we do have to have. I mean, In addition, I mean, to let go of that perfectionism. And yesterday, all I want to do is go for a 30 minute run and I could not make my body move that way. I was like a slug, just slithering on the sidewalk.

I did this. What I wanted to be a 30 minute run, ended up being like a hour and 10 minute walk because I was just like, everything hurt and I was exhausted and it was hot and it was humid. And. I was like this is the best I can do today. And there’s this book called the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

And one of the agreements is to do your best. And if you can have that as a mantra, just do your best today is going to be different than your best tomorrow, or different than your best from yesterday. And if we can just remember, like today I’m doing my best, that just helps let go of that perfection need, I think.

Aubrey: Thank you so much for that. I really appreciate. We all need to hear that message about, being compassionate and just doing the best we can because some days are hard. I would like to shift gears a little bit. So, while we’re not only talking about women. I would like to hear a little bit more about your experience in helping women feel empowered. This has been a recent focus in schools in terms of helping girls feel empowered with programs like Girls on the Run. What role can schools play and helping to perhaps lead by example and valuing the contributions of women/ girls equally to men & boys?

Stephanie: This is a great question. If I had to say to help women feel empowered as a mom of a daughter in the school system, and as a mom of a daughter who has a few challenges, I would want her to be encouraged by her teachers to do things.

To feel empowered enough to speak up when she needs help. To let her know it’s okay. And not to feel bad about that. And I think as a society and as a culture, I think people are afraid to ask for help. They feel like it makes them look dumb or they feel like it makes them look weak.

And that’s not the case at all, ask for the help. So I would say in the schools for these young girls, encourage them to go outside their comfort zone a little bit. Maybe have teachers share how they’re going outside their comfort zone with regards to leadership roles. Suggesting that women apply for these leadership roles and encouraging them to do so, I think as long as our female and male teachers are encouraging people to be leaders and go outside their comfort zone, I think that’s something that’s really important. And that’s yeah. Yeah. 

Tara: That’s great. I appreciate it. As women we think about that a lot. Yeah. All right. I’m going to roll on to some questions that we ask of all of our guests now.

So the first one is what are the most important things that you do to grow professionally and personally, Stephanie? 

Stephanie: Okay. So on a personal level every day I journal everyday, I meditate. And I try to challenge myself with a race a year, because that is one of those things that pushes me outside of my comfort zone.

And I try to have a goal. My goal is never to beat anybody else. It’s always to maybe be myself or just challenge myself in some way with regards to a race. Another thing personally is I love to take classes. I get coached. I love to learn. I read a lot, so I’m always trying to become the best version of myself. With regards to professional development, I stay engaged in coursework of some way. I mentioned to you earlier, I’ve done the different certifications. That’s real important to me. I listened to a ton of podcasts and I read a lot and I wish I read more for pleasure. I will say I do read for pleasure, but my pleasure reading is anything Brene Brown or of the self-help John Russ.

So, um, I read a lot, love to learn a lot and just stay engaged in that way. 

Aubrey: We have many similarities. I think Tara and I are similar. We do like to continue our growth personally and professionally. Thank you for sharing that. The second question is what is one of the most important things we can do to be more mindful?

Stephanie: I think. If not, if you’re not practicing meditation, then allow yourself to have. A deep breathing practice or a breathing practice, because that helps you stay a little bit more in the moment. A lot of times throughout the day, I will, I have a timer set every four hours to take a breath and I take five minutes and I practice either coherence breathing or the box breathing.

I’m sure you guys have heard of this where you inhale for four hold for four exhale and then hold for four. So I do that and then coherence breathing. Breathing in for four exhaling for five. So I practice some sort of breathing practice just to help do a little reset, to be in the present moment.

And as much as silly as it is, we can be a whole lot more mindful if we’re not on this thing all the time, which is hard because these are our lives. These are our schedules, our computers, everything, but the less we can rely on them a little bit. We can be a little bit more in the present. 

Tara: I was going to say that my watch tells me to breed several times a day, and now I’ve just gotten accustomed to ignoring it.

It’s bothering me all the time. Nobody is going to tell me, I really, I keep trying to do these things, but it’s just not coming naturally, it’s a struggle. Okay. We’re going to have some rapid fire questions now. I’ll about Brene Brown. So if you could put one book as mandatory reading in the school curriculum, what would it be?

Stephanie: Okay. This was really hard. I’m going to break a rule, which I don’t like to do. I’m very much a rule follower, but I’m going to be real honest. With this, I have a few books that I love in this school curriculum. The first is the sweet one, the boy, The Mole, the Fox and the Horse. It’s not. It is the sweetest.

If that could be a part of the elementary school curriculum, I would love it. I read it every morning with my coffee. And it’s just a beautiful way to start the day. It’s got beautiful messages in it. I love it. Middle school. I thought about this Deep Kindness by Houston Craft. Middle school years are these crazy years and maybe sometimes kindness is a lost art.

But this is a really beautiful book and it talks about deep kindness, not the kinds you throw around like confetti, but just a really deep just thinking about other people, practicing empathy, I just think that would be a nice message for middle schoolers. I think it would help people feel seen and heard.

Anyway, the last book I have I’m a big Margaret Wheatley fan and there’s a book called Who Do We Choose to Be? And I would love for this to be part of a senior year curriculum these kids are getting ready to go out into the world. They’re figuring out what their majors are going to be in college.

They’re going to be our future leaders. And this talks a lot about leadership and how you want to show up in the world. And I think this is just one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. And. It’s a little deep, I won’t lie, but it’s a beautiful book that I think college or high school, senior shivering.

So those are my thoughts. 

Aubrey: Excellent! Those are amazing. I know. I want to add them. We’re going to add them to our Good Reads list, by the way, podcasts listeners. Be sure to check that out. And I will add them to my personal book list because it’s growing. Thank you for sharing those titles with us.

That’s great. I am curious the next rapid fire question. What is one app you couldn’t live with? 

Stephanie: Spotify. I love my music, and podcasts. That’s how I get through the day. 

Aubrey: You are not the first person who said that and it definitely is popular. That is true. Music does motivate you, right? 

Stephanie: Yeah.

Tara: I think this next question you referenced already, but what are you reading right now? 

Stephanie: Yes. So I’m listening to Martha Beck,the Way of Integrity, great book really deep and again, Kristin Neff’s Fierce Self-compassion, always a lot to learn. 

Aubrey: I love it. You’re probably like me. Do you have a ton of books?

Like midway? Like I have two, one audible that are open and then I like figure out what is Aubrey feel like today? Do I want to dive into help them with my more like parenting? Yeah. Awesome. I would 

Stephanie: Also say Dan Harris is 10% happier is also open on audible. That’s a great book too! .

Aubrey: That’s awesome. All right, so I’m going to close this out with what is one great piece of advice you’d like to leave us with? 

Stephanie: If everybody could take just some time for yourself every single day, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, an hour, 15 minutes, whatever that looks like, but for you .And that could be sitting quietly.

Coffee with a friend, reading a book, whatever it is, but it’s for you. I just think that’s essential. And I think a lot of times we get lost worrying about what other people think. I think we get lost being of service to others sometimes, which I love being of service, but you gotta be in service to yourself sometimes.

And I really think if we don’t take care of ourselves, we’re not going to be able to be available to other folks. Yeah, just take some time. 

Tara: Great advice. Gosh, you’ve shared just so much great information. Thoughts with us today. Really appreciate it. Stephanie, it’s really been a pleasure. Thanks so much for joining us.

Where can people find you online? 

Stephanie: You can find me at my website, stephaniemitchellfitness.com. I’m also on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook. So come join the strong, mindful, feisty community of women that we have! 

Aubrey: It’s been a joy. Stephanie, thank you so much for joining us today. 

Stephanie: This has been such a joy! Thanks.

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