Courtney Bentley connected her emotions to her workouts — and that infused her with a new sense of purpose
Swimwear season is just around the corner. Before you start counting calories and doing reps, how about a little inspiration? Courtney Bentley — certified personal trainer, sports nutrition expert, motivational speaker — is here to deliver. Bentley is anything but one of those maddeningly flawless motivational gurus. Rather, she’s a reformed “self-hater” who overcame an eating disorder and body-image issues to start a lifelong journey to health and fitness.
When did you become passionate about healthy eating and fitness? As a recovered self-hater, I discovered self-love through moving my body, connecting with my inner guide and nourishing my body. Like most women, I grew up believing I wasn’t thin enough, pretty enough and all that, which dug me deep into an eating disorder. I was able to overcome it by lifting weights and seeing the power and potential I had in the gym. As someone who is 5-foot, 2-inches and petite, I always felt small in the world. Working my way to being able to deadlift my body weight — and then some — changed how I viewed life and my purpose in this world. I learned that I needed to nourish my body to keep up with my workouts, and I saw how eating the right foods made me feel, energetically and emotionally. I decided my purpose was to help people find that connection, whether it’s from lifting weights, dancing, soccer, karate, swimming or whatever helped them flow in life.
What’s your top fitness tip? Connect an emotion to your fitness and health. Mindset is the biggest fail with people, when it comes to getting healthy. Subconsciously they don’t believe they can do it, so they will ultimately fail. It is so important to connect how you want to feel with your workouts and eating habits. If you amplify a feel-good emotion with a workout, you will be successful because you will crave that emotion and connect it with your workouts.
You are a busy person — personal trainer, nutritionist, blogger and now you just launched a podcast series. How do you make time to stay in shape? I commit to my fitness no matter what. I work out almost every day around noon to 1 p.m., which is a slow time for me on an average day, so it works out perfectly. I’m also pretty organized. I make a to-do list for the week on Sundays, fill in my client appointments, podcast interviews and see where I can fit in a social life. The biggest thing for me, and something I teach people, is that my workouts are a commitment to myself, one that I made a long time ago and one I have yet to let go of. I treat them like anyone would treat taking a shower or brushing their teeth.
Three must-haves in your kitchen? My Ninja blender, my slow cooker and my George Foreman grill. I have clients all over the globe who bring George Foreman grills with them so they can cook healthy meals wherever they go. All you need is a plug.
If you could do only one exercise, what would it be? Deadlifts! I love deadlifts for the movement’s ability to build overall strength, as it’s a compound movement. I credit deadlifts for shaping my abs. I had such a hard time getting my abs more defined, but deadlifts gave me the lines I desired, as well as built my backside.
Any tips for keeping your diet consistent and fighting off cravings? My biggest tip is to plan out dinner for the week and prep it on a day you have an hour to commit to cooking. Every Sunday, or whatever day, write out three easy, throw-together recipes that make a tasty dinner and cook huge batches of each. Place half in the freezer to pull out in the future, and have the rest in the fridge ready to go. You can also use the leftovers as lunches.
How do you feel about “cheat days”? Cheat days are great. Not only does enjoying a cheat meal every so often help you lose fat, it will mentally help you stick to your plan. A proper cheat meal can refill glycogen stores to support hard training, recharge your metabolism, which might have plateaued, and stave off your body’s ability to eat away at your muscle.
What are the biggest mistakes people make when working out? I’m a firm believer in having a plan. Having a goal without a plan is like driving from Las Vegas to New York without road signs. I think people believe that buying a gym membership will solve their problem when in all actuality, you have to have a mapped-out plan of action. Whether it’s a schedule of classes, a plan you get custom-created by a personal trainer, or a book you follow, having a road map will help you gain momentum and confidence.
If you could train anyone, who would it be? Gwen Stefani. I just love her energy and would love to be her motivational sidekick! Plus, I would love to hear her playlist!
Five things I can't live without