Sophia Bernard's Training Mindset Will Help You Conquer Your Goals
Sophia Bernard is a woman of many talents. She's not only a practicing attorney, she's also a fitness and nutrition coach. Sophia recently shared her morning routine with us, and we caught up with her about self-care in her own life and lessons she's learned from her past as a competitive athlete.
Anser: You’re an attorney AND a fitness and nutrition coach!? As a busy professional with this major side hustle/lifestyle, how do you bring self-care or balance into your life?
Sophia: Great question. I would love to be able to tell you that it was easy for me to figure this out, but it actually is something I severely struggled with during law school and early on in my career. My struggle with finding balance and prioritizing self-care is actually what led me to open up about it and its importance in hopes that I could inspire even just one person to take better care of themselves.
What I figured out was that the word balance is sort of myth. What we need to focus on and understand is proper scheduling, routines, and prioritizing. Regardless of how busy your career or life is, you health should be primary. The unhealthy version of yourself at some point isn't going to be able to keep keep up or enjoy the fruits of your hard work. Your family, the people who depend on you, the people you support -- you won’t be able to be there for them if you don’t take care of yourself first. And that’s why self care is the opposite of selfish.
So its that mindset that really laid the foundation for me to find this balance and bring self care into my life. So I guess the short answer is, mindset.
"The unhealthy version of yourself at some point isn't going to be able to keep keep up or enjoy the fruits of your hard work."
Anser: Growing up, what did self-care mean to you? How has it changed as you’ve grown?
Sophia: I don’t think my younger self really understood what it means to take care of yourself and to practice self care. To be honest, I never thought about self care or anything remotely close to it because I did not know what it was. And that is probably why i suffered so much in law school and in my early career because I didn't understand how to put myself first and why it is important.
As I’ve grown, I now understand completely what self-care means and what it truly means to be healthy. I’ve changed a lot in terms of how I give myself to others and to things in a way that does not cause burnout. I am now able to recognize signs of burn out and when I need to pull back and check myself.
Anser: Your work with diet and fitness is such important physical self-care, what kind of mental/emotional self-care do you do?
Sophia: THERAPY! Seriously, I strongly encourage everyone to seek the help of a professional therapist to help guide you through your mental and emotional health journey. I do not think this something that we can effectively do on our own. I see my therapist every 3 weeks like clock out. Outside of that, I have been very blessed to have a best friend of almost 20 years and we do a great job of checking each other and making sure our mental and emotional health is intact.
But honestly, when I am in the gym at 5 am with headphones and I am in the zone of working out, That is the time that I can get to truly speak to myself and work through my current emotions. So in a way, the time that I have allocated to my physical health is also beneficial to my mental/emotional health.
Here is another added bonus for nurturing your mental/emotional health, it helps with fitness. If you’re trying to shed unwanted fat or grow muscles, regulating stress and managing cortisol is key to making progress. When the body is stressed, it does not respond and sometimes can actually cause it to retain excess water. So if you needed another motivator for taking care of your mental/emotional health, think about that little black dress.
"If you needed another motivator for taking care of your mental/emotional health, think about that little black dress."
Anser: You’ve written a fitness guide, Shape, Shred, Tone. What’s the core message you want to get across in that ebook?
Sophia: My core message is about prioritizing health and focusing on a lifestyle transformation and not short term or fad diets that promote unhealthy tactics and quick weight loss.
I recognize that a lot of people start or want to start a fitness journey purely for the aesthetics. And that isn't wrong, I mean we all can be just a little vain. However, I want to challenge people to look beyond that. Being healthy is so much more than what we look like or how much body fat we carry. It’s about heart health, hormone health, immune health, digestive health, mental health, emotional health, etc.
"Being healthy is so much more than what we look like or how much body fat we carry."
So, the first part of my book focuses on nutrition. Nutrition is the most important thing in my opinion, because that will ultimately dictate whole body health. Secondary, is physical fitness because that also promotes whole body health. What I ultimately want is for my readers and clients to take away and believe that whole body health is the most important thing and the appearance is a secondary benefit. Yes, our goal may be to lose 20lbs, and we will, but I want them to understand and appreciate and value their health.
"Whole body health is the most important thing and the appearance is a secondary benefit."
Anser: You talk on your website and on social media about gaining control and self-discipline as one of the benefits of incorporating a fitness/nutrition regimen in your life. Can you expand on that? How has the structure around health in your life affected you positively?
Sophia: So I have been an athlete since age 9. When I was 9 years old, I joined a City track league. I was a cheerleader and a dancer also, but track was primary. I was a track athlete from age 9 to age 21 when I ran NCCA Division II Track. Track instilled in me the discipline and the desire to always push through.
Track and running in general is a sport that requires a high level of discipline and mental toughness. When you’re doing 400 meter repeats in the middle of the Florida heat, it takes a lot of mental energy to continue pushing your body through that workout. I also credit much of the discipline I learned from my college coach, Rick Glenn. He taught us how to visualize our race before race day, he taught us to create race day routines, he taught us mental toughness, he taught us affirmations.
I’ll tell you two quotes that he told us, and I will share how those two quotes continue to shape me in the present day:
1. “Its race day, nothing hurts on race day.”
2. “All great champions have one thing in common: short term memories.”
When I got to law school, my strategy was to view every single exam as a “race day." Every day leading up to “race day” was practice. I knew that if I wanted to be successful, I had to show up to practice every day and give it my all. I created a daily routine and I created a “race day” exam routine. Outside of the stress of studying, there were a lot of roadblocks and moments in law school where I felt absolutely destroyed and defeated. For each of those moments, I remembered “All great champions have one thing in common: short term memories.” I picked myself up, and I envisioned the last set of 400 meter repeats feeling like I wanted to vomit and I remembered how I kept pushing -- so I kept pushing.
Fast Forward to the present, my everyday life is nowhere near as intense as law school. But my discipline and ability to continue pushing despite rejection and failure, is still strong. The structure that I have built for myself where I am training at 5am, having a full and complete breakfast by 7am, and being productive by 8am, keeps me grounded. It brings me so much clarity. While I am training I am able to envision my day, begin my to-do list, and allow my creativity to flourish.
Anser: Along those same lines, are there simple methods or structures people can enact in their own lives to be more disciplined around health or fitness?
Sophia: Yes, affirmations. The power of our words is underrated. If you do not have a history of discipline, I highly recommend practicing affirmations. That is step 1, believing that you can do it. Step 2, create a routine. Muscle memory is very real. We can train the human mind to do almost anything. If we all truly understood that, we would all be unstoppable. Step 3, extend yourself some grace. Once you have decided what your routine will be, give your body time to adapt to and forgive yourself during the adjustment period.
"21 days is all it takes to create a habit."
When I first created my routine, I promised myself that I would stick to it for 21 days. 21 days is all it takes to create a habit, so I knew if I could make it 21 days that I would be set. And sure enough, my routine has stuck and is unshakable currently.
Anser: What are some of the most common misperceptions or fears you have seen in your work with clients around nutrition and fitness?
Sophia: I cringe whenever a prospective client tells me that she just wants to “tone.” I feel like a man made that word up to soften the idea of women having muscles. Because that “tone” look that women want is lean muscle growth with fat loss. I think there is a misconception that once you start lifting or doing certain lifts that you are going to look like the female Arnold Schwarzenegger. I promise you, no one builds that amount of muscle by accident!
"I cringe whenever a prospective client tells me that she just wants to “tone.” I feel like a man made that word up to soften the idea of women having muscles."
The other misconception is that they automatically have to eat less or restrict certain foods. I do not ever tell my clients that they can't do something because it's “bad” or “dirty”. No. My plans are about balance. Sure, if you want to shed fat I will not suggest pizza every day lol. But we will develop and work a plan that allows for smart balance without restriction.
With regards to the misconception of eating less, I find myself actually increasing food intake for new clients. Sometimes the issue could be that you aren’t eating enough.