A woman’s history of weight training

I started weight training when I was 15 years old. My parents got me to join their gym in the late 70’s, which at the time had men days and women days. Women weren’t allowed to train with men. We had special weights for us, that were usually painted pink. Most of the women would do super high reps so we wouldn’t become masculine. At the time of joining the gym my father got me a trainer who luckily showed me how to lift with heavier weights such as doing squats and pull-ups. I even competed in a bodybuilding contest, that was more of a figure contest. I even won Ms Southwestern, received $300.00 in cash.

I enjoyed the weights for no other reason than it helped with my swimming. I had joined the swim team in the 10th grade, and the coach had the guys lifting weights. So I figured if this would help them get better at swimming, wouldn’t it help me get better and faster. Absolutely! I started winning all my events.

My collegiate undergrad years, women and men were allowed to train together (but women still lifted light weights), for fear of getting too muscular, looking like a guy, or lord forbid, losing your femininity. Women weren’t doing too much in the weight room in the eighties. You were seeing more women athletes, but not many. More women were doing aerobics, low and high impact. Women loved doing abs, but couldn’t do a push-up or were willing to try.

However I was used to lifting heavy, doing squats, pull-ups and bench press! My first boyfriend at UCSB even dumped me when I signed up for a weight training class. But it didn’t deter me from my passion of weights. I hired on at the local gym, taught weight training on the arsenal of machines, aerobics and began to take classes in kinesiology. I loved weights, and I loved the strength that it gave me, mentally and physically.

Upon graduation I applied at a tennis, swim and exercise club. In the early nineties women still didn’t lift weights, only super light for thousands of reps, still fearful of the same old myths. I don’t want to get big and bulky, I don’t want to lose my femininity or the weights would slow me down for my sports.

I started competing in Natural Bodybuilding contests. I thought this would be good to enhance my credibility as a personal trainer. But women were starting to take steroids. It was so obvious which women were taking them, they were highly muscular and very large. They would highlight these women in all the magazines at the time, perpetuating the myths that all women will look like these women on steroids, if you lifted weights. Believe me you cannot get that big or bulky unless you take steroids, period. Unfortunately it took many years before women began to realize this. And to this day a lot of older women still believe this myth! I did win Ms California and Ms Junior USA, which had more to do with my symmetry from swimming. I began personal training when only celebrities like Madonna had trainers. It was so frustrating to train women who wanted to look good, but so fearful of weights. Thank god for Linda Hamilton, in the movie Terminator, was shown doing pull-ups and looking lean. Women were slowly becoming more interested, even though I was constantly educating them of the benefits of weight training!

Since that time I realized that I couldn’t receive much creditably as a personal trainer with just my bodybuilding accolades, so I enrolled in Graduate school and received my Masters in Exercise Physiology. Even then I was asked to teach aerobics, where the men got asked to teach weight training, track or swimming. I became certified as Strength and Conditioning Specialist along with many other certifications to improve my knowledge of exercise. I went on to get a PhD in Nutrition because of the relentless questioning about how to lose weight, how to get leaner or how to reduce my belly fat!

If you fast forward, I am still training clients, educating women about the physical and mental benefits of being strong, doing 10 pull-ups and dead lifting greater than my own weight.

Weight training my whole life has kept me resilient to all the criticism about getting too big, too slow, too masculine or only dumb people lift weights. Weight training has allowed me to stay focused in the fitness industry where only men use to always tread. Weight training has allowed me to follow a lifelong passion of exercise, nutrition and wellness! Being able to walk into a weight room and lift more weight than the guy next to me, has always put a smile on my face!

Let me just say this to all women, it is imperative you get strong! Get strong for more functionality, get strong for better balance, get strong to travel all over world and feel great, get strong because being physically strong makes you mentally strong! Get strong because it keeps your metabolism high, get strong so you can be more resilient to change and get strong because it keeps your mood elevated! Get strong because you sleep better and get strong because then you are no longer invisible! Get strong because you need a voice and you need to be heard!

For more daily information like and follow us on Facebook and check out our custom designed exercise programs on our website at http://www.achievingfitnessafter50.com.

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Your strength is your greatest weakness

Most of the people that search out our services come to us with injuries. We consistently track injury rates and injury areas to look at the trends in our clients. 40 percent of the injuries we deal with are lower back, followed by knee, ankle, leg, and then shoulder. This is not a complete list, but is does show the top 90 percent of the injuries that our clients need to address. We do not diagnose injuries, our job is to help our clients return to health and fitness by strengthening and mobilizing the injured area, balancing out the body to prevent future injuries, and trying to find out if problems in their exercise technique or their previous exercise program contributed to the injury.

Incorrect form combined with too much weight are usually significant factors in injuries. However, one of the most common problems that we see is the fact that most individuals do not perform a balanced exercise program. Working the chest without performing equal or more back exercises to balance the muscles pull on the body. Performing quad dominant exercises while ignoring the hamstrings and gluts. These imbalances can contribute to lower back, knee, and shoulder problems due to anterior muscles placing more force on the skeleton without the posterior muscles to balance out the loads.

The term “Functional Fitness” means exercise that challenges the muscles in the same way that the body would work outside of the gym. When you use a prime mover muscle (example: chest) then the opposite muscle (back) must also work to counter balance movements and smooth out the action. Supporting muscles (shoulders) will also be used to assist with the movement. The problems is when the muscles you have focused on consistently (chest) are significantly stronger than your stabilizing and supporting muscles (back and shoulders), you have now greatly increased your risk of injury. The strength of your chest muscles have now lead to your greatest weakness and the area you will most likely injure (lower back or shoulders). An exercise program must work all muscle groups to keep your body moving well, without pain, and moving through the full range of motion. Overworking specific muscle groups and causing imbalances only reduces the “Functionality” of your body.

Research in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science has shown consistently that exercises for the core (think more lower back and oblique’s, not just abs), gluts, and hamstrings significantly reduces lower back and knee pain. Below are 3 tests (and fixes) to see if imbalances are part of your pain problem.

Knees hurt? Check your hips.

The pain you feel in your knees could be tightness or lack of mobility in your hips or ankles. Check the mobility of your hips by lying on your back in a doorway so that the middle of your kneecap is on the threshold. Place your arms at your sides, palms up. Keep your feet together, toes pointed at the ceiling. Pull your toes towards your shins to create a 90-degree angle at the ankle. With one leg straight and staying in contact with the floor, slowly raise the other leg until either your knee bends on your raising leg, or your bottom foot bends or turns out to the side.

If the knobby part of your ankle can make it past the door frame, your hips are mobile—check the ankle test below to see if that’s causing knee issues. If either ankle can’t make it, foam roll your hips and gluts, and then work on this stretch using a belt or strap for more improvement.

Fix it: Lying in the same position as during the test, wrap a strap or belt around one foot and raise it until you just start to feel a stretch, only mild discomfort. Do not stretch to the point of pain. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat twice per leg. You should see small improvements in your range of motion weekly.

Hips moving OK? Check your ankles.

If your hips are mobile, or even if they’re not, ankle mobility can also lead to knee pain. To check your ankle mobility, assume a one-knee position facing a wall. Your knees should both form 90-degree angles, and the toe of your planted foot should be about four inches from the wall. In this position, try to glide your knee over your little toe to touch the wall without lifting your heel. If you can reach the wall, your ankle is mobile. If your heel comes up before your knee touches the wall, your calves are too tight and this could cause a problem.

Fix it: Foam roll your calves and work on mobilizing the ankle by working it through the range of motion mentioned above. Trying to slowly push the knee closer to the wall while keeping the heel planted on the ground. Performing this as a drill, you can see as much as half an inch of improvement. If you feel pain during the drill, stop and consult a physician.

Lower-back tightness? Check your hips.

Back discomfort doesn’t always indicate a back problem. If one side of your pelvis is higher than the other, it can result in back pain, hip pain, groin pain, or even knee pain. Unevenness of your hips can pull on your lower back, causing that tightness while sitting all day.

Fix it: If you notice your hips are uneven, try this hip abduction exercise. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart (the classic sit-up position). Wrap a small resistance band around your knees so that it’s already a little tight while your knees are together. Now press out against the strap to separate your knees until they form a V-shape, holding this position for 5 seconds. This move helps to fix the hip imbalance because “in the lying position, the muscles that are causing the pelvis to be out of alignment are shut off. Repeat for 2 sets of 20 reps, 3 times per week.

An exercise program should make you stronger, help you perform everyday and sport specific activities better, improve your overall health, and do these things without increasing your risk of serious injury. Look at the exercises you perform to ensure that your program is balanced. If you sit most of the day, performing exercise that work your back, gluts, and hamstrings are vital. Foam roll and stretch daily to improve and maintain mobility.

For more daily information like and follow us on Facebook and check out our custom designed exercise programs on our website at http://www.achievingfitnessafter50.com.

 


What the number on the scale cannot tell you.

We often work with people who believe the number on the scale is the key to happiness, and their ideal body. Unfortunately, it is only one form of measurement that does not account for many other parameters. It will not show you the bigger picture of your health and fitness. It will not show how you feel or look, it is simply a number that represents the forces of gravity upon your body.
Important things the scale cannot tell you:
1. Your Weight Fluctuates Each Day
If you weigh yourself daily you will notice the number fluctuate 3-5 pounds, this is normal. While we recommend weighing yourself at the same time of day and under the same conditions (mornings, after you have gone to the bathroom and before you have had anything to eat or drink) there will be normal daily fluctuations. Hormones and sodium can both play a significant role in water retention day to day. If you weigh yourself later in the day then you are also weighing everything you have had to eat or drink, and a gallon of water weighs 8 pounds.
2. Your Weight Does Not Always Show Your Health
If a person is thin, it does not automatically mean they are healthy. A heavier person may have better health markers due to their lifestyle choices. Do you eat the correct amount of fruits and vegetables every day? What is your blood pressure, your blood glucose level, or your resting heart rate? These numbers will show how healthy your body is internally. Do not let the scale be your gauge of health.
3. Your Body Composition Changes
Why the number on the scale doesn’t matter. Your body composition, the muscle to fat ratio, is a better indicator of your health and fitness level. If you have a lower fat percentage then you have less fat and more muscle. This number is more important and there are specific healthy ranges for men and women.
4. Muscle is more dense than Fat
You build muscle when you exercise, which is more physically dense than fat. This means that if you lose 5 pounds of fat and gain 5 pounds of muscle, the scale will not change, but the size of your body will be smaller. Muscle will help boost your metabolism so you can burn fat, even at rest.
5. Your Clothes Tell the Truth
Instead of determining whether you are getting results based on the scale, look at how your clothes fit. If you clothes fit well, then the number on the scale is not important. Let your clothes be the gauge in deciding if your hard work dieting and exercising is paying off!
Most clients have a pre-defined number as to what they think their weight should be, based on a previous weight when they were the happiest with their body. You are not alone if the number on the scale can make or break your day. Stop focusing on your weight and start concentrating on adopting a healthier lifestyle.

The most important aspect of lifestyle changes is how you feel. It is about your natural energy levels and the way your clothes fit. Can you perform normal daily activities, including recreational pursuits, without any pain or need of further conditioning?
The most important things that the scale cannot tell you is:
How great of a person you are
Your self-worth
Your power to choose your happiness
And that you are loved!
If you need help making changes to your health or have any questions or comments, please contact us.
For more daily information, like and follow us on Facebook, and check out our custom designed exercise programs on our website at www.achievingfitnessafter50.com.


Why your Metabolism is important!

Muscle = metabolism. Starting from age 30 we lose 1/2 lb of muscle per year unless we do some type of exercise to retain our muscle mass. This means that every year our metabolism slowly decreases and we gain fat, even if we are not eating more food. People spend a lot of money to buy supplements to increase their metabolism in an effort to lose weight, when the most effective form of increasing your metabolism is to add muscle.

Add Muscle – A study from Ohio University took out of shape 60 to 75 year old men and placed them on a regular weight training program for 4 months. The men lost body fat and gain muscle, this changed their metabolism to match those of much younger men. Many people believe that they cannot add muscle as we age, but numerous studies have proven that to be incorrect. You can build muscle at any age (male or female), it just easier to add muscle when we are younger.

Burn More Calories – Adding a couple of pounds of muscle will increase the total number of calories that you burn everyday, even on the days that you are not active. This will help you reach your health and fitness goals sooner and maintain your weight better. Some form of weight training 3 times per week using every major muscle group will not only burn calories while you are exercising, but also cause your body to continue burning more calories throughout the rest of the day.

Sleep Better – A working body demands more rest. According to the National Sleep foundation, 10 minutes of exercise daily will dramatically improve the quality of your sleep. A good nights sleep is essential to metabolizing carbohydrates. If you are not burning those carbs, then your body will store them as fat in places we do not want!

Our bodies are built to move and keep moving. As we age our muscle mass is an important factor in our ability to carry out daily tasks. Maintaining your body with proper exercise helps to ensure it can perform the task you need and enjoy in your life.

For more daily information like and follow us on Facebook and check out our custom designed exercise programs on out website at www.achievingfitnessafter50.com.


Are you in your Zone?

Cardiovascular disease is the number 1 killer of women over 50. The strength of your heart is a major part of your ability to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. While most of you are putting in the time running, swimming, bicycling, or on one of the various cardio machines, are you really exercising your heart? According to the American Heart Association, your heart pumps nearly 2,000 gallons of blood every day and beats 100,000 times a day.
However, unlike other muscles, your heart muscle does not tire from use. Your heart is like other muscles in that it needs exercise to work efficiently. In fact, any activity that is repetitive, keeps your heart rate elevated, and involves some vigorous movement of large muscles — such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming or bicycling — is good for your heart. One problem is that most people do not keep their heart rate elevated enough to strengthen it; instead they go through the motions and fail to push themselves.
Your heart rate needs to be between 70%-85% of your max heart rate. The easiest way to figure out your max heart rate is 220 – your age = max heart rate. For example, a 30 year old has a max heart rate of 190 (220 – 30 = 190). This is how almost all machines in the gym figure out your heart rate zones. While this is a very good estimate, many individuals and athletes can push their heart rate 10-30 beats above this number because it is not specific to their fitness level. The standard method assumes that everyone your age is the same fitness level as you, regardless of sex, weight, fitness history, etc.
The best way to maximize your time and results is to use the Karvonen Method (pick any website from search) to calculate your specific heart rate zones. This method customizes the heart rate zones to your fitness level by using your resting heart rate in the equation. Looking at the chart you can see that using the standard method can underestimate your training zones to the point that you are no longer training (if you do not challenge the muscle at least to 70%, it will not get stronger).
Your resting heart rate is a measure of how fit your cardiovascular system is right now. Normal resting heart rate is 70-80 beats per minute (bpm). And it will change depending on what your do, exercise makes it better (lower) while sit all day makes it worse (higher). We see Olympic athletes with a resting heart rate of 39 and sedentary individuals with a resting heart rate of 120+.
If you are not working your heart hard enough, you will not see your run times or your fitness level improve. And to make it easier, most heart rate monitors will be picked up by the cardio machines and show your heart rate on the screen.
When you exercise, you are conditioning your heart to perform better under pressure. Exercise forces your heart to supply your muscles with more oxygen and energy than is needed during rest, as well as flush out wastes that pile up in the muscles faster than when you are at rest. The result? A fit heart that can fill with blood and squeeze it out more efficiently and your risks for disease are decreased. It’s time to get up and get moving into the zone.

For daily information please like and follow us on Facebook at Achieving Fitness After 50 or check out our website for online personal training programs at http://www.achievingfitnessafter50.com.


Body Science: The High Intensity Effect- Calories, Weakness, and Healthy Bodies Part 2

Part I we discussed Muscle Activation. In this post we will be discussing how speed affects Weight Movement. This is the area that contributes the most towards a possible injury.

Weight Movement – In the biomechanics of force, speed is squared in the equation. This is good for developing force and moving weight, bad for risk of injury if an individual does not have correct form. Speeding up a movement allows you to use more weight and work muscles harder, it can also greatly increase your risk of injury if not done correctly.

The trend of higher intensity exercise programs has highlighted the need to increase speed of movement and how it improves the body (burn more calories in the same time) when compared to slower workouts utilizing exercise machines. The ability to use your fast twitch muscle fibers can be retained with correct training and therefore, reduce your risk of falls, etc. The use of speed drills, agility drills, plyometrics (box jumps) can be a great addition to an exercise program, if you follow protocols. This is were we fall into the more is better principle of 40 box jumps (4 sets of 10 for a beginner) is protocol, so 100 will get us the results we want faster (if you don’t get hurt).

A good coach or trainer knows that correctly manipulating all of the variables (sets, repetitions, rest periods, box height, type of exercise, order of exercise, weight, etc) can keep you consistently progressing while reducing the risk of injury.

Lesson- Moving too light of a weight or too slow means you only use a limited amount of muscle (fiber). Muscle equals metabolism, the more muscle you have/more muscles you use, the more calories you burn!

High intensity exercise is a great part of a complete exercise program. Due to the nature of many exercises used, they do not work all major muscle groups equally. Over time this can cause significant muscle imbalances and lead to injuries. Augment your high intensity work with exercises to address any muscle or mobility imbalances, past injuries, and sport or goals specific training.

This post is to answer a physiology question that was submitted on our website. If you have a specific training or physiology question, please contact us on our website listed below.
For daily information please like and follow us on Facebook at Achieving Fitness After 50 or check out our website for online personal training programs at http://www.achievingfitnessafter50.com.


Body Science: The High Intensity Effect- Calories, Weakness, and Healthy Bodies Part 1

In recent years the increasing number of high intensity exercise programs and classes has shown that moving with greater intensity (speed) can significantly improve fitness levels. The benefits span all age groups, but it can specifically work 2 major areas as we age: Muscle Activation and Weight Movement.

Muscle Activation – Every muscle in your body is made of 3 different muscle fibers (we are going to discuss only 2 here to keep it brief), type I- slow twitch and type II – fast twitch fibers. Each individual has a specific percentage of each type of muscle fibers from birth (this explains why some people are genetically faster or better at some sports or activities). When you are lifting light weights at a slow or moderate pace you only utilize slow twitch muscle fibers. When you add weight or move quickly the fast twitch fibers are recruited, in addition to the slow twitch fibers to complete the exercise or movement.

As we age and with lack of use, we gradually lose the ability to recruit fast twitch muscle fibers (if you don’t use it, you lose it). This leads to a lack of balance and the ability to react quickly to a situation (i.e. falling, etc). The reason why some elderly people drive slower is the fact that they cannot react quickly when there are changes on the road in front of them. Driving slower places more distance from the car in front and therefore, more time to react.

The ability to recruit fast twitch muscle fibers are incredibly important for some occupations (example: police, firefighter, and military, reacting to an opponent or situation). First person to react correctly wins, but we all need the ability to avoid daily hazards around us.

Lesson– Lifting light can be a great way to start an exercise program, but over time it limits your progress. Challenging your body is the only way it will change. Working out slow trains your body to move slowly. And as we get older, it feels like the world is moving faster. We must be able to keep up!

Please come back tomorrow for Part 2.

This post is to answer a physiology question that was submitted on our website. If you have a specific training or physiology question, please contact us on our website listed below.

For daily information please like and follow us on Facebook at Achieving Fitness After 50 or check out our website for online personal training programs at www.achievingfitnessafter50.com.


Strength Training: The Best Tool for Type 2 Diabetes Management

shutterstock_462039895Aerobic exercise has been the most promoted form of exercise to manage type 2 diabetes, but adding strength training to your workout is more important. We were one of the first to prove and publish the fact that resistance training could reverse the symptoms of type 2 diabetes (Krisan, et al. J. Appl. Physiol. 96:1691-1700, 2004), since then numerous studies have reinforced our findings.

Strengthening your muscles is an important part of staying healthy, when you have type 2 diabetes it provides added benefits. When you exercise with weights or other forms of resistance, it can help control blood sugar levels. Your body uses glucose from your bloodstream to power the working muscles, which can help clear out excess sugar from your system.

Resistance training allows you to work all muscles in the body, instead of just primarily lower body with aerobic conditioning, therefore we see a greater change in glucose levels. Your muscles are the largest utilizer of glucose, more muscle activity equals more glucose utilization and less extra blood sugar.

Strong muscles also store glucose more effectively, and that helps regulate blood sugar even when you’re at rest. Strength training also promotes weight loss — an important goal for many with type 2 diabetes — because the more muscles you have, the more calories you burn.

If you’ve never done strength training, start slow and resist overdoing it. Consistency and steady progression is the key to change. For example, with exercises involving handheld weights, choose a weight that you will be able to lift for one set of 8 to 10 reps. Work toward completing two to three sets of 15 reps each before moving on to higher weights. Always rest muscles at least one day between workouts. Your body rebuilds when it recovers from the exercise, not while you are actually performing the exercise.

You can strength-train with free weights, resistance bands, and exercises that use your own body weight as resistance. At the gym, try starting with weight machines, which are often better for beginners. We recommend working with a qualified personal trainer to find the best exercises for you.

Check with your doctor before starting a strength training program. As with any exercise, strength training can lower your blood sugar level, so you should check your blood sugar before and after exercising to see what kind of effect the activity has on your body. If your blood sugar dips too low, you may want to have a snack before or during your routine. It may also be a good idea to talk to your doctor about changing your medications to allow for your increased physical activity.

Above all, be smart about your new exercise routine to keep it safe and enjoyable. The best thing to do is start slow, gradually increase the intensity and weight to help you reach your goals.

For daily information please like and follow us on Facebook at Achieving Fitness After 50 or check out our website for online personal training programs at www.achievingfitnessafter50.com.


Are your genetics holding you back?

Genetics play a huge role in how we look, think and act. If you were born with a naturally muscular frame don’t expect to wake up looking like somebody who just naturally looks like a distance runner, it probably just isn’t going to happen.

However, research has shown that genetics are only 40% of your health. The other 60% is lifestyle (exercise and nutrition). The type of exercise you perform and how consistently you exercise combined with the quality and quantity of food you consume will determine the majority of your health.

A study several years ago looked at the genetics of sprinters. They found 17 genetic markers that predict that an individual has the potential to be a great sprinter. Comparing these markers to Olympic sprinters of the last 2 decades found that no one has all seventeen markers. The average number of markers for most Olympic sprinters was 11, and this was also the same number of genetic markers that the author of the story had for being a sprinter.

Why did one individual become an Olympic sprinter and another with the same genetic potential become a writer that did not exercise? Motivation and the desire to become a sprinter. Your true physical potential can only be realized with a good exercise program designed for your needs and goals combined with consistent work towards your dreams.

While genetics can affect your outcomes, it is not the main factor that decides your health. Your choice to exercise and eat health determines your ability to reach your goals!

For more daily information like and follow us on Facebook and check out our custom designed exercise programs on out website at http://www.achievingfitnessafter50.com.


The truth about fitness after 50

We’ve all seen the people on the cover of fitness magazines, with ripped abs, well defined arms, and perfect smiles. This person really looks like they have it all together and their life must be amazing….
The truth is they need to measure every bite of food they ingest, abstain from any indulgence, workout daily or even twice daily, and give up time spent with family and friends. They need to deal with feelings of hunger. They need tons of sleep to be able to handle their next workout. They can’t maintain this for very long, so no…they don’t always look like they did when that cover photo was taken.

Keep this in mind if you ever feel discouraged by those photos, and don’t forget about the power of digital editing!

The cool thing is it’s really not that hard to get into moderately good shape…. 2-3 good workouts a week and sneak in some veggies and fruit into your existing diet, reduce the excess complex carbs (I am not advocating removing them from your diet completely, just eat in moderation), and the same goes for alcohol.

It’s a little more work to get into pretty good shape, but can be done if that’s your goal…work out a little more each week, pay more attention to your portion sizes, and limit your indulgences.

Keep all this in mind and realize the magazine cover look is probably a pretty undesirable goal due to the sacrifices needed to get there. Instead of going all in for something that isn’t worth it, start with a minimalist mindset and realize that small steps sustained over time will get you to your goal.

Get more active any way you can. Take a 10 minute walk each day. Do 20 body weight squats and a plank before you shower each morning. It helps build in a healthy habit and builds momentum towards something even better, true health.

Look at your biggest nutrition challenge. Set a goal of one less beer or wine per day. Set a goal of 5 salads per week. Try keeping cooked lean protein in your fridge so you’re ready to whip up a healthier meal in 5 minutes or less. Same idea here, focus on one attainable goal for at least three weeks before moving onto bigger things.

I hope this helps you get through the grocery checkout line and past the magazine rack feeling a little better about where you are and where you can go with your fitness. It’s natural to fear failure and opt for staying where you’re at, but trust me, taking small steps forward towards a more realistic goal will quickly build your confidence and lead to a happier life.

Let me know if you need any help.