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From Boardroom to Body Project with Lindsay Vastola

Jonathan: Hey everyone! Jonathan Bailor back with another bonus, Smarter Science of Slim Podcast. Delighted to share today’s guest with you. She is an inspirational woman whose passion for supporting individuals is evident by her professional work but I also have personal experience with Lindsay, who will get into more here in a second. She has a special place in my heart because back at this point probably four or five years ago when that which is going to be the Calorie Myth is now the Smarter Science of Slim and was actually called, never said this before Hot, Smart and Healthy. That was the tentative title so it’s been through an evolution.

Lindsay was a fervent supporter and a wonderful champion for myself, personally, to help me pursue a passion of helping others to be healthy and fit, and she also does that on a mass scale inspired by a wonderful story and that’s why I wanted to share her wonderful story with you today. As you can tell from this lovely introduction, our guest today is none other than the delightful Lindsay Vastola, who is the founder and CEO of Body Project Fitness and she is also the editor of the industry magazine, Personal Fitness Professional. Lindsay, welcome to the show!

Lindsay: Thanks, Jonathan. It’s a pleasure and absolute honor. Thank you for including me in this great series.

Jonathan: Lindsay, your story is really unparalleled. I’ve talked with a lot of people and never heard someone with quite this visceral and almost paradoxical story. Can you just take us back in time?

Lindsay: That’s quite an introduction. I’ve got some big expectations to fill. Well, it all started in terms of fitness. I was born in California, raised in Hawaii. My father was in the restaurant business but he played college football. He was the one who took me into the gym when I was twelve years old and we did our first set of dips and introduced me to the squat rack and there was that sense from early, early age of that sense of accomplishment and I loved that feeling. I was an athlete through high school, did everything from cheerleading to rugby and everything in between.

When I was looking to “What I am going to do in college? What’s my career path would be well?” Growing up in Hawaii, the Japanese economy was a huge part of the Hawaii economy, so I studied Japanese in high school and college. I thought that I have this background and I loved international, I love politics and I said “Well, I am going to do something bigger and better.” Quote unquote, than doing anything fitness related, if you will. “I am going to do something bigger and more important like international politics.” In high school and college, I worked in athletic training as well. I was a student-athletic trainer. I got to work at the Hula Bowl with some of the now amazing football professionals.

I loved that exposure and then also working with women in rehab or with women and men who had hip replacements and seeing them being able to walk again, it was so fulfilling. As a misguided eighteen year old – I wouldn’t say misguided – but you think of what’s the bigger opportunity, so I went to school in Washington DC to American University and I majored in International Politics. While I was studying, I lived in Japan for about a year and a half. One thing that was always central, I was always active. I loved the gym. I loved working out. I loved the science of “What can I do to feel better and make this look different.”

Both my brother and my sister have Type-1 diabetes so from a dietary and nutrition stand point from the time I was five, six, seven years old, the importance of how food impacts your life and how do you feel was always a part of really what made me and my psychic growing up. When I came back, graduated college and met my now husband from New Jersey, I said “Well, the most logical place to move after Washington DC is New York City.” I moved up to this girl from Hawaii, West Coast girl moving to the East Coast and I started working in Manhattan. I worked for a fast growing, really high work hard play hard type of company. I commuted about two and a half hours each way into the city and back. I traveled internationally and I loved it.

The challenge no longer was “Okay. Well, how can this challenge my career?” It was more of “How can I keep up with this lifestyle?” I wasn’t going to the gym. I wasn’t working out. The extent of what I was eating was literally a jar of peanut butter in my drawer that if I remembered to eat I would take a spoonful because I was so busy at work and it was so cut-throat, deadline driven and I really got sucked into this vortex of you just stopped taking care of yourself. It was amazing to me to then see how that it impacted my body and really how stress and not taking care of yourself does long term repercussions.

Fast forward about seven years of working in that corporate atmosphere, I very unexpectedly quit. That is a whole other long story, but I said “You know what? I’m young and I have the energy and it’s so easy to get again sucked into that vortex of commute and travel, work and sleep with your Blackberry. Nothing else really exists. There’s no balance.” I said, “If I don’t get out now, 20-30 years from now, I am really going to really regret it.” I left not having really any plan, if you will. My husband and I were getting ready to be married and we were paying for this big wedding. I said “If there’s any time for me to focus on what I think is really” may be cliché, “but what I’m put on this Earth to do, it’s right now and I have to just do it.” so I studied.

I got my personal training certification, focused on education and I just started my personal training business. My clients were primarily that I seemed to most align with and attract, were women who were working professional women with that whole sense work-life balance was really challenging for them. I felt like here’s what I need to do, I think this is where who I align with. Again is women who think they have no time for health and fitness and what are the tips, tricks and strategies that I can give them that still gets them results because we know that when we are taking care of ourselves, we’re a better mom, we’re a better wife, we’re a better employee, we’re a better business-owner, a better entrepreneur, whatever it is, we’re that better self because we are taking care of ourselves.

How do we do that? That’s the challenge that I found. I very quickly found myself with… I was working more than I was when I was working in Manhattan. I said “Okay, there’s something to this.” I moved from one-on-one and I went to group training. I do women specific programs. I think where the x-factor of what I bring into my business and sort of what my mission and my bigger vision is “What are those lifestyle changes? What are some of the…” It’s great. I can give you some fantastic exercises that are going to help you lose weight and I can give you a quote unquote diet plan that will help you look a certain way, but at the end of the day what are the core changes that need to change in our mindset, in our daily life, and not just from a “Okay. Now, I am being motivated”, but what are some tangible tools that I can give them that will set them up for success.

I really created through this following of these set-driven women, whether they are stay-at-home moms or career women, it’s that mind-set that really I think is the bind that ties all of the women who I attend to be, that I feel that I attract most. I then just got further involved in this industry. I have a Women’s Boutique Fitness Studio where again, a lot of where what we are focusing on is the fitness but it’s really those lifestyle changes. That’s where I think I’ve really been able to find my happiness in this industry. I am being able to impact so many people. I hope that answers your question in a bit of the long winded way.

Jonathan: Absolutely does, Lindsay. It’s interesting to look at your life and personal experiences is a bit of microcosm maybe of what you are trying to do with others because you mentioned during your story how you made a massive lifestyle change yourself, and one thing I’d love to dig in with you is this metaphor of throwing your backpack over the wall. There’s a parable, which is there’s this person standing in front of this seemingly unscalable wall. They’re like “How do I get over this wall? How do I get over this wall?” and they have a backpack with them because they are a traveler. It’s really all they had. Everything they had is important is in the backpack. One day, they are just tired of ’emming and awwing’ They take the backpack and they throw it over the wall.

Well, the next day, they figured out a way to get over that wall pretty easily because there is no other option available. You talk about in your practice about making this lifestyle changes, making these mindset changes which will then enable us to figuratively throw our backpack over the wall. That’s what you did. You said “I have this awesome high-paying job.” You could have followed the traditional path of corporate success, but instead you threw your backpack over the wall and said “I am going to do something different, something that is going to make me healthier and something that is going to make me happier.” What have you found to be these practices that help busy, type-A driven personalities throw their health backpack over the wall and take back control?

Lindsay: Absolutely. That’s such a great analogy. I love that. That’s exactly that feeling of “Okay. Well, everything that I know that’s comfortable and safe, I’ve got to just throw over the wall.” and every person will hit that point. Women in particular, we tend to be all or nothing creatures. “I am going to work out seven days a week. I am going to wake up at five o’clock in the morning and work out seven days a week.” Well, here’s the truth obviously is that life happens. We have kids. We have meetings that come up. We hit traffic. Everything is going to come in the way and week to week our life is very different.

When we start looking at our life in almost like small…we look at the big picture, but what are the small actions that we need to take? You’ve heard this, I’m sure, Jonathan. It’s “What’s the definition of insanity?” It’s doing the same thing over and over and expecting something different, expecting different results. I see so many women who are treading their wheels because they get into that mindset of “I have to work out every day. I’m going to wake up and work out every day. I’m going to go to the gym every day after work.” or “I am not going to eat.” and then, of course, we know just physiologically that our bodies screams a lot louder than even our mind does and says, “Wait, you need to eat.”

Unfortunately at three o’clock, you hit the wall and you are not craving chicken and broccoli, you are crawling for sugar, caffeine, junk and carbs. What I have women do is one of the tools that I find that I fine-tuned because it was the way that I found if I organize my week, my day into very tangible, actionable action items. When we feel that we’re productive and organized, that’s what decreases stress. Stress is just that feeling of things that are out of our control. If we focus on things that are in our control and have them very tangible action items, that’s what’s really is going to motivate us because it’s like pens to paper, crossing it off the list.

One of the tools that I find most successful with the women that I work with is something that I call an ‘accountability calendar’. If you are familiar with the tickler file, I don’t know if you are familiar, where secretaries the way that they used to organize things is that each day, they have a folder every day of the month. If a bill came in, they would put that bill in that folder and it would be taken care of but they knew once that day came up, they would then tend to it, instead of having a stack of papers sitting on their desk. For most of us is that stack of papers is “I’ve got to work out. I’ve got to eat well. I have to take kids to soccer, at dance.” We have this stack that is so overwhelming, instead of breaking it down and looking at it.

Literally, I take a desk calendar. I am a big fan of pen to paper. There’s plenty of apps. You can use your calendar. You can use your outlook. I like Sunday nights. Sunday night is a great night for me to just sort of recap “Okay. What do I have going on this week?” Let me set out those goals each day. I am looking at my calendar on Sunday evening. Monday morning kids don’t have to be at school until later. I don’t have any early meetings so I am going to get in a 45 minute work out before work. Mondays are always good days too because we’re generally more motivated. Tuesday, I’ve got meetings early. Kids have practice until late. I’m probably not going to get in a work out, but I’m going to try go for a walk during lunch. Wednesday I can get to the gym in the evening. Thursday I’m going to take off. Friday morning looks like a good morning.

You see how it’s more practical because it’s a week to week. Give yourself enough flexibility because we know which week’s schedules are very variable but enough accountability that’s very manageable. It’s planned and it’s purposeful. When you do it with purpose and you are very methodic about it that’s going to set you up for success. You can do this for your exercise. You can do it for your work, for your career, instead of doing a to-do list, map things out. You have a big project? What are three to four actionable tasks that you can feasibly complete by the end of the day that are going to make you feel like you have been productive and not just lazy.

I always ask my client, I said “How many days do you leave work?” At the end of the day, they say “I was so busy today, but I felt I accomplished nothing.” If you feel you accomplished nothing, it just perpetuates this feeling of being unmotivated. “Well, I’ll just start it tomorrow. I’ll start it tomorrow.” Whereas this tool of this accountability calendar really helps you see those action items that are going to set you up for success. I hope that make sense now as I was able to illustrate that well, but that’s one is I think the big takeaways a lot of my clients find really helpful.

Jonathan: Having that accountability calendar seems like it would really resonate with these Type-A, very career-driven and just results-driven people because it relies on the existing mental of model of investments. You understand that if you invest some money today that it will pay more in the future, and what you’re describing here one could see as if you invest even thirty minutes on a Sunday night, you’ll literally gets the ROI, the Return On the Investment, will be five to ten more hours, like a five hundred to one thousand percent boost in results you are able to generate that week, and that seems like a pretty solid ROI.

Lindsay: Absolutely, and there is something very… like I said, “What causes the stress?” In most women when I ask this, we create a lot of our own stress, and it’s really breaking out what is in our control and what’s out of our control. That’s another tool that I use. I call it our control list. Put it by your bed because we know that the moment you put your head on the pillow, it’s not when your mind should quote unquote quiet, that’s when like a whack-a-mole game at the fairs, right? The bat come up and when one comes up, you hit it down, another one pops up, and it could be everything from “Ah, I got to email this person tomorrow.” or “Ah, I’m so upset that that dress didn’t fit me from last year.” or “Oh, my boss, he treated me this way and I’m so frustrated. I don’t know how to respond.”

There are things that you can control and there are things that you can’t. If you put that on pen on paper and you put literally in one list, “What do I have control over and what you don’t have control over.” I don’t have control right now that that dress doesn’t fit me but I do have control over the fact that I can wake up tomorrow morning and get a thirty minute workout in, that’s going to make me more productive throughout rest of the day. It’s just changing that mindset in and it’s a whole paradigm shift, and it takes practice. It’s not something that’s just an overnight but I find with these tools, you said it was Type-A, somebody who’s very results driven and that’s me. That’s why it works from me, but I find that it’s a good way to just keep ourselves accountable, but you hit the nail on the head; the return on investment of feeling like you’re being productive, the results are just multiple.

Jonathan: Lindsay, you have your fitness studios ever growing, you’re doing a lot of things on the web, what’s next for you both as individual and also in your professional capacities?

Lindsay: Well, personally, I have a seventeen month old, so it’s a constant… I know a lot of women are listening to this and when we talk about that work-life balance struggle but really trying to be purposeful so when I am with my family, I’m purposeful with my family and when I am focused on my career, my business which is something that just really fulfilled a passionate of mine, that I’m purposeful there, too. I think that that’s a real lesson that as women we need to learn that it’s not necessarily about having it all, but maybe just not all at once. I am being purposeful so that is always sort of front of mind for me.

Jonathan, what’s next for body project and for me personally and professionally? I see the body project. I see this vision; it’s bigger than me. It’s a movement. It’s movement of success-driven women doing things just beyond the four walls of a fitness studio. It’s for treats. It’s workshops. It’s seminars. I do a lot of corporate trainings so I go into companies again that I come from that corporate background so that I feel I resonate there and I really, really enjoy that. A lot more speaking, small workshops, seminars and retreats, and I’m just continuing to be an advocate of this industry – fitness. Especially, I’m very fortunate to have my position with PFP Magazine and I get meet some of the most amazing fitness professionals who are making a direct impact on health every day from kids to seniors and everybody in-between. I’m really fortunate to be a part of that and I am excited to continue to be involve with that as well.

Jonathan: Well, excited to see what you do, Lindsay. You certainly have a wonderful track record and a great heart driving you in that right direction. Thank you for all that you do to help others live better and thank you for sharing your time with us today. I love hearing the story and love this practical tips.

Lindsay: Thanks, Jonathan and good luck with everything.

Jonathan: Listeners, I hope you enjoyed this wonderful conversation as much as I did. Our guest today, Lindsay Vastola. You can learn more about her as an individual at the website with her name LindsayVastola.com. Also, you can learn more about her business body project fitness, the website BodyProjectFitness.com. Always the pragmatist. I love it.

Listeners, again thank you for joining us. Please remember, this week and every week after, eat smarter, exercise smarter and live better. Chat with you soon.

[End of Audio 21:42]

This week we have the pleasure of hearing from Lindsay Vastola. In her own words:

“What happens when a success-driven Manhattan girl abruptly leaves her international marketing career to get back to her fitness roots?

She transforms the lives of thousands of women, builds a highly successful independent fitness and lifestyle business, and becomes a lunar force in the rising tide professionalism of the industry.

Lindsay Vastola fueled an early fire for fitness in the gym with her dad when she was 14. In high school and college, she worked as a volunteer student athletic trainer for a rehabilitation and sports medicine clinic. She loved helping an 80-year-old woman rehab after a hip replacement as well as assisting elite athletes to get back on the field or court after season-ending injuries. Vastola was intrigued with the human body and found satisfaction in seeing the body heal and improve.

But at 20, following a passion in helping others didn’t seem prestigious enough, so Vastola majored instead in International Politics, focusing on Japanese relations.

After graduation, she was quickly snatched up by a New York City international marketing and communications firm. Vastola earned fast promotions and soon was managing a  32-million-dollar division and 25 employees.  She worked long days, had a two-hour commute into the city each way, traveled often, and practically slept with her BlackBerry.

Vastola had found the prestige and visible success she was looking for, but fulfillment and a driving sense of purpose were glaringly absent.

Five years later, in 2006, she made an abrupt decision to leave her job. She was about to get married and realized that she didn’t like the way her future looked on its current course. She knew that if she didn’t leave that job then, the chains of money and prestige would bind even tighter.

“When I made the decision to finally pursue a career as a fitness professional, I knew that it would not be part-time,” says Vastola. “In my mind, it was all or nothing. Leaving a guaranteed paycheck opened the door for me to satisfy my inner-entrepreneur, and my passion for fitness was the ideal catalyst for success.”

With no job, no money, and a wedding three months away, Vastola dove into getting a personal trainer certification and voraciously consumed all the health, fitness, and business information she could get. Having worked out in gyms across the country when she travelled for her corporate job, she was familiar with the “typical gym trainer,” an image that didn’t appeal to her much. She says she was convinced that she had something bigger to offer the world.

So with $624 in a savings account she opened back in high school, Vastola bought a few sets of dumbbells and a stability ball, filled her VW Jetta with gas — ready to travel to clients’ homes as their new personal trainer.

“I had this instinct that I could take what I was offering in personal training and make it work in a group setting,” says Vastola. “I never thought about buying into a cookie-cutter boot camp system.”

After six months of sold-out fitness programs, Body Project opened a second location.

Vastola herself is creating a special blend of her two lives – the corporate world and fitness entrepreneurship – in her upcoming project. She is working with a team to launch a new brand focusing on coaching and mentoring career and success-driven women to take their careers and business goals to the next level using fitness as their catalyst to success.”