Here’s Why You’ll Never See Bad Pictures of My Butt

This article was written about my women’s program by a long time client, and great friend. Check it out on Medium.com

Small businesses have a hidden-in-plain-sight advantage over bigger businesses — a direct connection to their customers and to the communities they build.

The women of LIFT riding the devil’s tricycle. Photo by Dave Re.

Jen Shaw has been helping make women’s butts look great on (and off) camera for ten years. She’s the owner of LIFT, a women’s only strength and conditioning program in Austin. Shaw came up with the idea for the program while coaching at a Crossfit gym. Like any good entrepreneur, Shaw listened to her customers — repeatedly. Female clients would say they loved working out together but wanted more focused strength-training coaching (think: more Olympic lifting and fewer wall-ball reps). Shaw wanted to give women the kind of community they craved and the space to train in, so she decided to venture out on her own.

Jen Shaw and I back when she started her women’s only lifting program and today, running the show at LIFT. Photos by James Scheuren/Dave Re.

Over the last decade that Shaw has owned and operated LIFT, I’ve religiously shown up multiple times a week to work out with her. I’ve been through a career change, had a baby, recovered from having that baby, and through it all, I’ve watched Shaw grow her women’s only program exponentially. She’s helped me train through significant life events. But what really impresses me about Jen is how she listens to all of her clients and is able to meet them wherever they are — in training and life — she offers them exactly what they need.

Listening to clients and understanding their needs doesn’t just result in great looking butts — it sets Shaw’s business apart. Seeing LIFT grow over the years has given me insight into how small businesses can differentiate themselves from bigger businesses through fostering real connections with the people they help. Here are three things (aside from countless weights) I’ve picked up from Jen over the years…

Women have babies.

I started working out with Shaw at age 29. Back then, I needed to get in shape and educate myself about nutrition. She helped me accomplish both, and learn how to maintain them consistently into my next life stage: pregnancy and postpartum recovery.

It’s unsurprising that this is a common pattern with Shaw’s clients — women have babies — and when she realized this aspect of her clientele, she wanted to be able to coach us safely and effectively through both pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. She started training as a doula to gain more exposure to what she was preparing her clients for in the gym. Then, she became certified as a BirthFit coach and the gym became an official affiliate under the brand that’s known for safe and effective exercise and weightlifting through pregnancy and postpartum recovery. The athletes at our gym rejected the cultural shaming around weightlifting during pregnancy and Shaw came prepared with a safe and effective methodology. You don’t train for a marathon by sitting on the couch for nine months. She learned how to support us through this very physical (and often emotional) life transition, and none of us will shut up about important it was.

Me, bench pressing at 6+ months pregnant vs. pushing 250# uphill (not pregnant).

“I want to support and nurture women throughout every stage of life.” -Jen Shaw

Small biz tip: Your clients are people, and people go through many different life stages. It’s important to get to know your clients and the lives they’re living, to differentiate your business and help stoke personal growth.

Learn how to take pictures that make your clients look good so they’ll feel good — and share them.

Shaw is intermittently taking short videos and photographs during out workouts, and no one ever looks unfortunate. Yes, that’s intentional. And no, not every gym does that well. She’s not a photographic genius and I know she takes lots of garbage shots. But, she’s become a good editor and she knows what to post and what to trash based on how well she understands her audience.

Small biz tip: Your clients want to feel proud that they’re part of something, and they want to help you tell that story. Scroll through your Instagram feed, and you’ll notice sponsored ads from companies with staged photos of models that perpetuate perfection or idealism instead of real-world grit. Don’t do that. Instead, opt for authentic people in actual situations. They will share said photos with their network, and more real people will come knocking.

Nurture your community and it will grow itself.

When my son was born, the women I work out with brought my family food every night for THREE weeks. They were like ninjas, sneaking up my lawn to stealthily drop a hot meal in the cooler on the doorstep. If I invite you to come to work out at my gym, you may think that I hate you (because the workouts are hard), but the opposite is true. Lifting heavy weights at the crack of dawn with some of the most badass women in Austin is an initiation, an honor, and a great reason to get my butt out of bed.

Jen has gone out of her way to make sure that we see each other in normal person clothes too, not just when we’re dripping sweat in one another’s eyes — so that we can support each other outside of the gym in addition to the support inside the gym. We’ve taken it from there and cross-pollinated our lives: we talk to one another as mentors, we hire each other for jobs, cast one another for commercials, and babysit for each other’s kids.

Small biz tip: The feeling of belonging holds a lot of power: it’s a deep-seated human need. Create an environment that supports authentic connections to build a community of people who will help each other beyond the “walls” of your business. It’s a win-win situation that will also help you grow your business organically.

Small businesses don’t always have to consider themselves at a disadvantage when comparing themselves to bigger competitors — they have a unique opportunity to be right there on the frontlines, and get to know the real people behind the “customer” designation businesses place on them. Being able to interact with people directly means listening and molding their businesses’ offerings to better serve them. Jen Shaw and LIFT are an incredible example of the direction a business can take when its shape and growth are inspired by and built for the people they’re supporting.

Shaw’s programming to build functional strength isn’t just for lifting groceries or fat babies, but it helps with those, too.



New year starts a new Lift Lifestyle

I love a new year, a new start, a trash dump of the year before, and a beginning that I can recreate for myself and others. One of my biggest fears in life is being stagnant. Being someone that harbors huge goals yet does not take the steps to change in order to meet those goals. Someone that has big dreams and never lives them out. That’s my nightmare. A new year provides internal forgiveness so if you didn’t do what you needed to do in the prior year, you have a fresh start. I encourage anyone reading this to take note of the goals that didn’t happen, trips that never occurred, habits promised but never forged, books never read, relationships never fostered, and forgiveness never granted. Do it. A new year brings new meaning into the picture.

Today is day 14 out of 90 in the 2019 Lift Lifestyle health and wellness program. I start this program in the new year for all the reasons above and more. This lifestyle program takes sleep, nutrition, and confidence to a whole new level. Just two weeks in and people are setting PRs in the gym, sleeping better, and most importantly, they are thinking about what they are eating. They are looking at the plate of food in front of them and deciding what energy that plate will give them.

This program is about looking at food as a way to fuel our lives. Food is energy and its time to start thinking about what the hell that actually means. We need food to survive. It’s that simple. We need calories to make it through the day and glucose to work our brain. What complicates this formula is a lack of awareness, a complacency, and the myth of being too busy.

Lack of Awareness

People can tell me ten facts about their fancy smartphones but cannot tell me the difference between a protein and a fat. Seriously, it’s actually that bad. To most of the people reading this, you have food accessible wherever and whenever you want or need. You don’t have to forage or eat some random berries that you found after hiking for miles in a forest. You can go to Whole Foods, H.E.B, Central Market, etc., and have an array of fresh whatever-you-choose. Yet that doesn’t happen. You don’t know why you aren't sleeping but damn you sure need some bread and cheese. This signals a complete lack of awareness of the energy and nutrients you consume.

Complacency

There is literally nothing worse than using a quote … but I’m going to do it.

 

“If you want something you've never had, you must be willing to do something you've never done.”

Thomas Jefferson

Change is that simple. Doing the same thing day-in and day-out for years and expecting something to change is insane. Not exercising daily, eating a ton of crap, and not sleeping will inevitably take its toll. You have to wake the fuck up and do something. Something must change and you have to intentionally decide to do it yourself.

The Glorification of Busy

My eyes cannot roll further back into my head when someone asks me how to reach a goal. I give a straightforward answer, and there typically reply is, “I am too busy for that.” Being busy isn’t a thing. I acknowledge that it’s a big step to come to me and ask how to reach a personal goal. There were thoughts that set the conversation in action. Maybe even months of wondering if a goal was even possible. Then taking the initiative to have a vulnerable conversation with someone you trust just to brush the answer off by being too busy? NO. I just can't let that happen. There is time, let’s figure it out!

Step 1: Tell someone what you want. Share with a friend or loved one. Say it aloud. Make it real AF.

Step 2: Make a list of your day, minute by minute. Is each minute serving you? Are you actually physically doing something each minute? (No, the answer is no.) Are you even doing anything between 3:45pm - 4:15pm? What can you do in that time to help you reach your goals? Be real, you can make time in your day. Rearrange things and shift priorities to where they should be.

Step 3: Realize everyone is busy and you are not special. While it does take longer for some folks with work, travel, kids, school, and everything it’s NOT impossible for anyone. It just might be on a different timetable or take a few more steps than you are comfortable with.

Goals in this program are all over the map. Most deal with losing weight, gaining muscle, losing fat, sleeping better, fitting into old clothes, or just to feel better. Sleep and food are the answer. How you get there is up to you. Follow the steps: seek help, organize, and recognize your own personal timetable.

If you are in the same spot, pitted against what seem to be insurmountable goals, I encourage you to join this program. Start now, renew your goals, and stop making excuses.