Updated: Apr 18, 2020
Have you ever felt pressured to look a certain way, work out a certain way, or adopt fitness goals that weren't really yours? Have you ever been made to feel like your body needs to be modified in order to be acceptable? This week's guest, Stacey Sorgen, is the antidote to all that bullshit.
Learn more about Stacey and her ground-breaking gym at http://modbodyfitness.com/ Highlight Reel:
1:42 - Stacey's message to the mainstream wellness and fitness community: healthy isn't about the way you look
5:25 - Stacey opens up about a humiliating visit to a big-box gym that inspired her to create a new kind of gym
8:15 - Stacey calls bullshit on the idea that you have to look a certain way to be a personal trainer
13:39 - Stacey helps a woman with rheumatoid arthritis reach her fitness goals
18:32 - Stacey's recipe for consistency in fitness training
22:18 - The importance of intuition as a trainer, teacher, or coach
Adrienne MacIain 0:24
Hello, everyone, I am here with the amazing Stacey Sorgen. Stacy, please tell us a little bit about the wonderful work that you do.
Stacey Sorgen 1:10
Well, thank you so much for the invitation to be here. I'm so excited. I am an integrative wellness coach and a personal trainer. I own Mod Body Fitness, which is a gym, local to the North Seattle area. And I work with people to help them find the strength to be themselves.
Adrienne MacIain 1:28
Oh that's wonderful!
Stacey Sorgen 1:28
That's, in a nutshell, pretty much what I do.
Adrienne MacIain 1:31
Yeah, that's great. So I've asked you here today so that we can talk about a story that you have been blocked on telling. So what is the story we're going to be working with today?
Stacey Sorgen 1:42
This story that we're going to be working with today is the one that is pushed by the wellness and fitness community that you have to look a certain way or you have to be a certain way, that you have to post before and after photos, that you have to push fads. In order to be current, in order to be reputable, in order to be somebody who makes waves. And, you know, I hid for a long time behind my social media behind... you know those pictures, I posted them. I did that stuff that made me feel so so so icky on the inside. Thinking that it helped to make me part of that community. And finally, there was that breaking point when I thought: I can no longer do this, I really need to tell a different story.
Adrienne MacIain 2:36
That's awesome. I'm really glad that you're here to talk about that today because that is so, so important. Can you tell us a little bit about how you've been blocked from telling this before?
Stacey Sorgen 2:48
Sure. I think anybody who's surfing through Instagram or Facebook, anyone who goes online and types in health and wellness will be instantly bombarded with some of the visuals and some of the products that I just talked about. You know, even if somebody goes on to their Facebook page and says something like, "Hey guys, I'm having trouble sleeping." Information that is thrown at people, like "Oh, I was having trouble sleeping too. And then I took this supplement. And also I lost 30 pounds. Here's my before and after photos." It was keeping me from posting about, "Hey, guys, you know what? It's okay to just exercise or to move your body for the sake of movement and feel good being you no matter what size you are." So I practice body neutrality. And I think that anyone's goal is valid, that everyone's body is valid, that everyone can have, what is their own health and wellness and that that looks different for every person. And so my message was very much blocked by all this noise from the health and fitness industry, and I thought like, how valid am I going to look if I'm saying the opposite thing? If I'm saying the opposite, that you don't have to look a certain way, that your before and after picture could look exactly the same. But your life could be much improved. And I thought, Oh my gosh, if I like come out of this proverbial closet, like I've already come out of another... What will people in my industry think of me, and will I be disregarded and will I be ignored, or I will be shunned? And so those are all things that were kind of holding me back from speaking the truth that I saw.
Adrienne MacIain 4:47
Yeah, that's a really good point. Sometimes the closet that's actually the scariest to come out of is more like an opinion closet. But once you find your tribe, it's a lot less scary. And I feel like you are-- you've been creating a tribe. You've been the one to stand up and say, Yeah, I think differently. And I know other people think differently. And you're creating this tribe of people who believe that you can be happy exactly way you look, and exactly the way you are. And that's wonderful.
Stacey Sorgen 5:25
Absolutely. I talk a little bit about it on my website. I have a blog that I should really, I should really write on more, but there is one post in particular that seems to grab people's attention. And it's one of an experience that I think a lot of people have where they go into a big box gym. And they're like, shown the gym. You know, and then, and a goal is assumed about why you are in the gym. And for me, you know, I toured the gym, I'm like, I'm ready to get started like I want to get on this equipment I want to be doing these things I want to be strong, which was in my mind. And the personal trainer who walked me around said "Obviously you're here to lose weight," as he looked me up and down.
Adrienne MacIain 6:11
Stacey Sorgen 6:13
And then calipered me, had me do the fitness test right there in the middle of the gym, in the aisle in front of everyone and it was the most
humiliating experience. But a really important learning opportunity for me.
Adrienne MacIain 6:28
Stacey Sorgen 6:28
To know what feels like a good experience when you enter a gym, and what feels like a bad experience. And I work I'm so grateful to work with so many people who have had bad experiences and like solidarity, I know how bad that feels. And also people who are like I haven't worked out since Junior High gym class and I always got picked last. It was like, I've avoided movement since, and you helped me relearn what I might like. And that is such a blessing, and such an amazing opportunity. Like I'm really, really, really truly honored to work with those people. Because it doesn't have to be that and in the process of that, you're right, I have developed this amazing community of people who are like, "Yeah, like get down with your bad self!" How are those push-ups you've been working on or like, you did a five K, that's amazing. We all celebrate one another. And each person has like a very, very, very, very different goal for what health and wellness looks like in their life or what movement looks like, for what they enjoy and how they like to move their bodies. It's different across the board, but each thing is celebrated, and each person is celebrated just for being themselves.
Adrienne MacIain 7:42
That's so awesome. I love it. So what's a specific anecdote that you like to tell or that you could tell around... You just told one, which is that experience of going to the bad gym. What's an anecdote that you feel like really sums up the experience of actually, I guess the opposite of that of accepting your body as it is, and just celebrating it?
Stacey Sorgen 8:15
Yeah, um so I guess for like an anecdote I'd use myself, right? This personal trainer who really wants to fit in and so is exercising to make up for what I ate as exercise for punishment somehow for my body. And the biggest thing that I've learned from that is that we cannot hate ourselves into loving ourselves more. So it was after I stepped into "Wow, my body just allowed me to finish to half Iron Man. Wow, my body just allowed me to do five marathons. Wow, I can do this exercise, or I can try paddleboarding." Or when someone calls me up and they say, "Hey, you want to go for a hike?" My first thought is not "I don't know if I can," it's like, "Yeah, sure, where is it? Like, give me the address. I'll meet you there." And I think that's what a lot of people feel. So, going from a place where I felt very stuck in this box--I have to look this way, I have to be this way, I have to be this person, or people are going to judge me--now I really just like... I just really don't care.
Adrienne MacIain 9:22
Stacey Sorgen 9:24
So, um, that's kind of like a transition story that I think a lot of people experience when they come into my gym, and I'm so honored to be able to be of support to them during that process.
Adrienne MacIain 9:37
How did that story change you?
Stacey Sorgen 9:40
So that story changed me I think in a big way by... you know I was thinking people would only hire me if I could look like other people or look like someone they wanted to look like. Which now I think is total... Is it okay to swear on here?
I think it's total bullshit!
Adrienne MacIain 10:05
It is total bullshit.
Stacey Sorgen 10:07
You know, like, you don't go to the doctor thinking well I want to achieve wellness like this doctor. That doctor could be a smoker, could, you know...
Adrienne MacIain 10:17
[laughter] That's such a good point.
Stacey Sorgen 10:18
Yeah, there's lots of different things like just because somebody does not look like you want to look does not mean that they cannot help guide you to where you want to be. Think about watching the Olympics. And think about watching like the gymnastics coaches on the sideline. You know what I mean? Like, sometimes people are just really freaking good at coaching other people. Even if it's something they can't do. And to that point, you know, I coach runners, I coach people in all sorts of different sports. I want people to surpass my skills or abilities, like if I tried to hold everybody below what it was that I was personally able to do that would not be like in support and out of love for what their bodies are capable of, you know?
Adrienne MacIain 11:06
This is so true.
Stacey Sorgen 11:07
Yeah. So I might not be able to run a five minute mile right now. But dang it, I encourage people who want to do it. And I help to coach them to that end.
Adrienne MacIain 11:16
That's awesome. So the next question is, who is this story for? Who needs to hear it?
Stacey Sorgen 11:24
Dang, I needed to hear it! [laughter] I think there's a lot of people out there who are looking at being personal trainers and being seen and letting people know that it's okay to come forward. It's okay to just show yourself, and it's okay to offer your coaching and services to people. It's kind of like this, this funny thing that happened for a long time with like, the clothing industry, right? Like society tells people who are overweight, fat, plus-size--you know, like I'm definitely in that category--to exercise, right? That's basically the blanket advice is like "Exercise!" But then when we would go to the store and we'd look for clothing that would feel comfortable and appropriate to exercise in, there was nothing in our size. Because, like, that's not pretty they didn't want to see that, you know? And I feel like there was massive under-representation of us even on the racks in the stores. Now, I think that there's this awesome turning point. And I think, you know, move forward, get those clothes and you're one x two x three x four x five x, like, get yourself into a gym and start doing what you love to do for the sake of loving to do it: moving your body, helping other people move their bodies, and be that person that you needed and wanted in your life, but that you didn't see. You can be that for somebody else.
Adrienne MacIain 12:55
Stacey Sorgen 12:57
So I would love for people listening to this, if you're a personal trainer to not be influenced so much by, you know, the fields of health and wellness. You be you! Get into the gym. You're doing them a disservice by not being there, by not supporting people, and by not showing up in a place where we are sorely like underrepresented. So if you're listening to this, like feel free to reach out, I'm here for you. I'm a plus size personal trainer and I'd love to talk to you about how you can get out there into the world and make a difference just as you are.
Adrienne MacIain 13:32
That's awesome. Do you have a story of someone that you've helped? Those are my favorite.
Stacey Sorgen 13:39
Sure. So one of my very first clients, almost 10 years ago, she came into work with me and her goal was to be able to lift and pour a gallon of milk. She had rheumatoid arthritis and she was very quickly losing strength and dexterity and mobility, and she just felt like there was a lot of things for her family she couldn't do. Putting laundry into the washer and into the dryer and folding them was another big thing for her. So, just like with everyone, I researched her condition. I spoke with a physician, I spoke with the PTE. Like I tried very hard to come up with a plan, but everything that mainstream literature suggested for her condition did not work for her.
Adrienne MacIain 14:33
Stacey Sorgen 14:34
And that's okay. Like, I just kept working on things. And so we came up with, together, a plan for her. And so she continued to do these exercises until she became stronger, and then we progressed them, and she became stronger, then she was able to do more of those mainstream sort of protocol exercises. And I just remember the day that she came in and she told me that she was finally able to pour a gallon of milk. And hands down, still one of the very, very best days. Hearing her success, and her pride in herself, and what she was able to accomplish. And that's not like a, like I got on the scale and it said something different. That was like a huge impact to create the ability to care for herself and her children. And those are the those are the things that mean the most to me.
Adrienne MacIain 15:26
Absolutely. Yeah. Have you written a blog about that?
Stacey Sorgen 15:30
No, I haven't.
Adrienne MacIain 15:31
I think you should.
Stacey Sorgen 15:34
You know, sometimes it's not my story to tell, although that particular one did, on my Yelp page, wrote about her story so I feel comfortable in sharing that publicly, but there are just hundreds of similar stories of people who just wanted to be able to do something, to find the strength to be themselves, their best selves, and when we worked together, we found, you know, unique, interesting, fun ways for them to be able to attain that. And now they're, like, you know, changed because of it. And I'm so so very grateful and honored to have been part of that process.
Adrienne MacIain 16:16
Yeah. I just wonder if you, you know, were asking people if they would want to have their story shared, I think they might surprise you. Because I think people really like to have, you know, like to see their story inspiring other people.
Stacey Sorgen 16:31
Totally. Yeah, that's a good point. In the future, maybe I will do that. Thank you for the suggestion.
Adrienne MacIain 16:39
Of course. So what do you think... I mean, it's been pretty clear the sort of theme and meaning behind this, but can you try to sum it up for us, like, what is the core message that you want people to walk away with?
Stacey Sorgen 16:55
The core message I think is that movement and exercise and wellness are all or nothing, like the health and wellness industry would have you think. You are perfectly awesome the way that you are now. But if you have goals around your life or movement or things that you want to accomplish, I fully and wholeheartedly support whatever your goals might be. Find someone--if not me--find someone who's going to help you to support YOU, listen to your goals, and help you to take the steps to be where you'd like to be. But your body as it is, is awesome. Like, you're an awesome human being. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. And you have an opportunity to write your own story about your life, your body, your wellness, your movement, and make it what you want it to be.
Adrienne MacIain 17:48
Awesome. I'm reminded of a great podcast that I listened to a while ago, I think it was Radiolab. And they were talking about what makes a champion. What is the difference between someone who wins races and someone who does not. And it always came down to the same thing, which is consistency. The people who got up every day and did something toward their goal succeeded. Those who train when they felt like training didn't get as consistent results. And so, I would really... my question to you is, how do you help people create new habits and get that consistency into their schedule?
Stacey Sorgen 18:32
Sure. Good question. So yes, I agree. Consistency is important. And I use a lot of different methods to try to create consistency with clientele. One of the first things that I do is I try to teach them that there is no all or nothing. And a part of the way that we do that is we create kind of an energy scale for the day. So one being oh my gosh, you wish you'd stayed in bed. And 10 being like "I just had a pot of coffee and like, have all the energy!" Or maybe you're like really angry or really excited or really stressed and you got all this extra energy. And so the workout that we would do on like a day when you're at a three is different than we would do if you had energy and you're like at an eight or nine, right? But through this process, I teach them that almost every day we can do some sort of movement and it all counts. So on a day when you're a two, gentle stretching in your house, a day when you're a four, walking the dog a little bit further than you would usually walk the dog. A day when you're six, maybe getting into more like strength training, other days getting into more of like a cardio and strength mixture during the workout. So I'm teaching people that you just have to have your exercise your movement in line with where your energy is that day. Otherwise, I feel like it's a really defeating thing. You know, you're you're at a two or three and you walk into a gym and someone's like, "Hey, I wrote up a workout here for everyone to do, and make sure you get through it six times in this amount of time, and make sure that you're going this hard..." And they're like, "No, there's just no way. I guess exercises isn't for me, movement's not for me, and this isn't going to work." So I cater each workout and personalize it to suit each person, their goals and their energy level on any given day. And it's just a means of showing them that there's something that we can do every day, no matter like how we're feeling where we're at what our energy level is, what our mood is. There's something. And I feel like building that consistency is the thing that helps to make people to champion in their own life for their own health and their own well being and for the things that they want to accomplish.
Adrienne MacIain 20:59
That's awesome. I had this really wonderful experience when I was living in Santa Barbara. Somebody introduced me to like the best yoga class EVAR. And in this yoga class, the guy who led it was this like super hippie dude. So laid back. And his attitude was always like, this is your time, this is your practice. If you want to take a nap for this entire time, that's up to you. I'm just so glad that you showed up. I'm so glad that you're here. I'm so glad that you're bringing your energy to this practice today. And wherever your energy's at, that's where it's at. And he would literally come over and if he felt like you know, you were pushing too hard, like he would come over and just very gently, like put his hands on you and say just, "Why don't you just get into child's pose? Why don't you just relax?" And it was amazing. It was like the most supportive environment I've ever been in in terms of exercise, and I have never found anything like that since. So maybe I should come and check out Mod Body...
Stacey Sorgen 22:05
I would love it! And like, I feel like, Dude, this guy and I would be besties.
Adrienne MacIain 22:09
Stacey Sorgen 22:10
Because like, I get him, I feel like he gets me. It also sounds like he uses intuition, right?
Adrienne MacIain 22:17
Stacey Sorgen 22:18
Like during a class to, to take a look and see, you know how are you doing? So many times I will notice something in a class I'm teaching or like a small group, I'll come over to somebody and I'll say like, "Are you feelin' okay?" And they'll say, "How did you know? Like, how did... I just got a little dizzy for a second when I got up from the floor too fast." And they'll say like, "How did you know?" And I'm like, "I'm trained to know that. I'm trained to notice and to pay attention to you and where you're at." So I love hearing that. Yeah, that's totally what you can expect at Mod Body, too. I have totally had people come in and just be like, "Can I just lay on the floor on my back and just stretch a little?" Yes. You just let me know how I can help you.
Adrienne MacIain 23:04
That's awesome. All right, what else would you like everyone to know? Before we wrap up?
Stacey Sorgen 23:10
I would like everyone to know that you're doing great. Just how you are. You are an awesome human being. You deserve respect, no matter what gym it is that you enter, and whether or not you ever enter a gym. I just hope that you can crowd out the noise from the health and wellness community and find YOU. Like, who you truly are, what you really want, and peace with your body. And if you need help, I'm here for you. You can find me at modbodyfitness.com. I have a studio in North Seattle but I also offer online training through Zoom. I offer coaching by phone, in person, by Zoom... So, there's a lot of different ways that we can work together. Even if you're just looking for the first step or to identify a plan or if you're looking for resources, and I'm not your person, I will help guide you to find somebody that will work great with you.
Adrienne MacIain 24:14
That's awesome. Thank you so much for being here today. I really appreciate it.
Stacey Sorgen 24:19
Thank you so much! It's such a pleasure. I appreciate it.
Adrienne MacIain 24:22
Transcribed by https://otter.ai