Episode 19: How to Start Changing the Narrative About Women’s Bodies and Aging with Alyssa Ages

When you saw women on the cover of magazines like Seventeen and Cosmo while growing up, what did you see? They didn’t tend to include physical strength in their image of the “ideal” female figure, did they?

How to Start Changing the Narrative About Women’s Bodies and Aging with Alyssa Ages

In fact, some find women with “too much” muscle a turn-off. But strength is beautiful too and perfectly acceptable for us as women to display. We just have to remember that for ourselves and pass that attitude down to the next generation.

Alyssa Ages is advocating for just that, not only with her two young daughters but also with her book Secrets of Giants. In part two of our conversation on The Wonder Women Podcast, you’ll learn about the importance of promoting a culture of empowerment and resilience by challenging the dichotomous message women hear regarding strength and beauty. We’ll also talk about the challenges of parenting girls in the modern age and the significance of embracing play and fun in fitness.

1:15 – The importance of changing the narrative about female strength and body image

6:47 – Why it’s more important now than ever to teach young women about resiliency, strength, and embracing failure

9:30 – How we can begin to change the narrative about what’s acceptable and possible for women

11:45 – The mixed message society has always thrown out there about strong women

20:05 – The joy in becoming strong and why we should lose the idea of exercise and embrace the idea of play as adults

27:50 – The importance of appreciating the journey you’re on, regardless of whether or not you reach your goal

Connect with Alyssa Ages

Alyssa is a Toronto-based, New York-born author, freelance writer, and copywriter. She is also a mom, strongman competitor, endurance athlete (six marathons & an Ironman), rock climber, CrossFitter, and former member of the Jersey City Bridge & Pummel roller derby team. Her work has appeared in ELLE, GQ, SELF, Slate, The Globe & Mail, WIRED, Men’s Health, Parents, and others.

Her debut book, Secrets of Giants: A Journey to Uncover the True Meaning of Strength was featured in The New York Times and Publisher’s Weekly, among others. It is part personal narrative, part research mission, part midlife crisis odyssey into the world of strength to answer the question: What if strength isn’t about how much we can lift, but how we manage life’s struggles?

Alyssa Ages

Alyssa at The Globe and Mail

Mentioned In How to Start Changing the Narrative About Women’s Bodies and Aging with Alyssa Ages

“Strength Training Isn’t About Success. It’s About Failure.” by Alyssa Ages | Slate

“I’m Done Apologizing for Being a Strong Woman” by Alyssa Ages | ELLE 

“Freya India – Deconstructing the Female Mental Health Crisis” | Modern Wisdom Podcast

GIRLS: Girlhood in the Modern World (Substack)

Chop Wood Carry Water by Joshua Medcalf

Arnold Sports Festival

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Michelle MacDonald: Welcome to The Wonder Women Podcast, where we discuss a variety of subjects all pertaining to optimizing your physique, building strength, developing a strong mindset, and tools to help you win at life.

I'm Michelle MacDonald and I'm the founder of The Wonder Women Coaching Team. We are a community of results-driven coaches and clients who believe that we can age like never before.

Welcome back to The Wonder Women Podcast, episode two of a two-part series with Alyssa Ages, author of the book, Secrets of Giants. Last week, we explored how strength training teaches us to embrace failure as an essential part of becoming strong and pushing past our boundaries, leveraging those breakthroughs to grow in other areas of our life.

This week, we're going to explore the conflicting messages around strength and beauty for women. We can be strong, but not too strong, and we have to be careful about how much muscle we're allowed to put on.

We're also going to talk about how we can change the narrative for the young girls following us and the importance of keeping a playful attitude around moving our bodies, especially as we age. Let's get to it.

Yeah, I'm in an ivory tower here because I live and breathe exactly what I feel that I'm seeing percolating into the mainstream that I've been living and breathing that my entire life. I was reading [inaudible] when I was 12 and in sports and just like where are the images of strong woman, as you said, emotionally strong, mentally strong, as well as physically strong, where are these women?

My mission is to use the narrative. That's what gets me up. That's what gets me going. We've got to change the narrative. It's why I created this podcast because I'm like, “I want to curate a podcast where I'm inviting women and we're cross pollinating our audiences and getting that message out there that this isn't even a big overhaul.”

There are these women and these enclaves existing right now. They've always been there, but we need to shine the spotlight and we need to get that message out to the mainstream, so that the girls that are coming up behind us, and also because I care deeply about women of my generation and older, that these women are not going to continue to believe that their bodies are broken.

Our bodies are not broken. I just posted about that the other day. We have these amazing bodies that give birth. We’re incredibly resilient. Why are we believing that our bodies are broken? Especially this narrative around aging that everyone has to be medicated.

I just think, “Gosh, the birth of the human race, the females.” To be female, I feel is to be medicated from the time you hit menses to the time you die. That's a very scary narrative. I don't know how much you want to touch on that. But I think focusing on all the things that we actually can do, the main levers that we can pull, lifestyle that will mitigate a lot of things that we assumed were due to age or that we assumed were due to being female and aging. Let's pull those big obvious levers.

Alyssa Ages: Yeah. I mean, listen, we've been told to be careful for so long. I catch myself doing it to my daughters all the time. I'm like, “No, what are you telling me to be careful of?” She's jumping across a field, just don't jump in there and save her. Let her do those things, let her take those risks. To me, teaching them about the importance of being strong, of taking up space, and of taking risks is incredibly important.

I was at a trampoline park with my girls the other day and my little one was waiting to jump into this big foam pit and there was a teenager in front of her who was just not moving. My little four-year-old is standing there and she's just yelling at this teenage boy, “Get out of the way.”

I was like, “You know what, I'm not stopping her. Good for you, girl, you hold your ground. You tell them where you can go.” I hope that that's in part because we talk all the time about the importance of being strong.

For me, my generation, I grew up with the ideal body type that we were told was Kate Moss. I was firmly in the era where when Kate Moss said, "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels," that was really formative for me. That was in those years, and I have carried that forever.

There's not a time where I go to eat something and that isn't the first thought that pops into my brain. Now, I now have the toolbox to go, "That's ridiculous. Eat the thing." But it sticks with you. So, I'm trying really hard to tell them now, "Hey, we don't see ourselves that way. It matters to me that you're strong. It should matter to you that you're strong." Some of that is going to involve taking these kinds of risks, doing things that are outside of what's expected of you.

Michelle MacDonald: Yeah, I think it was your article for Elle or an interview when you were talking about watching your daughter lift, was at Legos or some a kid's--

Alyssa Ages: Lifting box and magnet tiles. Yeah.

Michelle MacDonald: Yeah. You wanted to get up and help her because she was struggling and then you stopped, you’re like, “Screw that,” or “Fuck that,” actually. “I'm going to let her struggle because,” gosh, what were your words? You said in this new stage of life that you're in, what you want for yourself to be strong, you also want for her. You want to immerse her in a narrative that you felt you didn't have growing up.

Alyssa Ages: Yes, exactly. I want her to know that she can make mistakes. When I was writing that article for Slate, one of my favorite quotes from one of the experts I interviewed was that when we as parents jump in and tell our kids, we stop them from failing at something, we're telling them that you shouldn't fail, that that is something to be avoided.

I try really hard to not jump in as much, if there's obviously a real safety issue, fine. But for the most part, we have to let them make mistakes. Because otherwise, as soon as you jump in, you're telling them failure is bad. Don't risk things, don't fail.

I don't want them to lose those 10 years that I lost because they feel some certain way about themselves. Yeah, similar to what I wrote for Elle about bodily autonomy, I want them to also know that they can make choices for themselves and how they want to move their bodies, and how they want their bodies to look and feel. That's for them to decide. That's not for me or any other outside source to tell them, “This is what your body's supposed to look like or do.”

Michelle MacDonald: I can't imagine how tough it must be to be a parent in this day and age. I think probably every generation is faced with this, I don't know if it's a fear or a concern, like what's the best way to parent because there's that dichotomy between generations where it's like we weren't raised in the same petri dish that our children are being raised in.

Right now, of course, there are these concerns. I was just listening to an interview with Chris Williamson. Have you heard of him? Oh, he's got really great podcasts. He was interviewing this gal. She's 24 years old. She's an incredible writer. Maybe you've heard of her. Her name is Freya India.

Alyssa Ages: No, I don't.

Michelle MacDonald: You have to check her out and she's got a Substack. I just was jumping on there quickly this morning and then I thought, “Oh, I better shut that down because I'm going to go down [inaudible] rabbit hole.” But these people are just such great writers on Substack.

In the podcast interview, she was talking about how social media, she was studying a lot of research, but how the era of social media has made it so challenging for young people to navigate the very normal uncertainties of adolescence, and how these subgroups are really glamorizing mental health issues and medication, things like hot girls take Prozac.

I'm also a Gen Xer. In our generation, yeah, I mean, it was like you had to be skinny. I, of course, had an eating disorder for 14 years of my tragic youth. But now it's like I don't even understand it because it really is this onslaught of social manipulation that takes socialization to the nth degree when algorithms can target their audiences just from the amount of time you're hovering on an image and then you just start getting bombarded with like for like.

You're on this conveyor belt, as it were, of information that's pushing you in a certain direction. Again, now more than ever, it's so important to teach resiliency, strength, embracing failure, all of these things.

I actually really wanted to talk about this. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this because you're a mom and because of your own personal journey into strength. The future looks grim for women. It's not even that it's like this big person behind the curtain is doing all the things, we know from our experience as women that it's also women or girls doing it to each other.

How do we apply this notion that anything is possible when it comes to changing the narrative for young women? How do we go about this?

Alyssa Ages: I wish I had just a finite answer for that. I think that's where social media, and I'm never going to say social media is good, but I will say that because of the reach that we can have with our messages now, there is a chance the more of us that are out there on social media doing these things, bucking the norm of what women are supposed to look like or behave like, the more people can see that.

I was thinking about this as you were talking and I realized when I was growing up and when you were growing up too, we were served specific images of what women were supposed to look like and we didn't have anything past that.

If Seventeen Magazine arrived at my doorstep and it only featured really thin, wavy women, I don't know where else I was supposed to go to look for what images of women were supposed to look like. That was it. That was what I had, and maybe television.

One positive maybe with social media is you can find those communities in those pockets of people who are saying, "Hey, no, it's cool to look like this. It's cool to act like this. It's cool to do this activity." In that sense, that can be a good thing.

But I also feel like with the next generation, a lot of it is just on us in those in-person one-on-one settings to say, "This is what matters," because you know that they're going to get served these messages in ways that we can't control.

But if we can create this foundation early on of, "Well, actually, what's important is that you just are you, and you lean into your own strength, and the stronger you are, the harder it is for those things to knock you over and to impact you," then I think we can do them a service that way.

One of the things, and I know you've just seen this in the book, but when I talk about this idea of taking up space, it was wild to me to look back through a century of history and go, "Oh, my God, we have never really embraced strong and muscular women."

Even at times when we thought we did, we didn't. Those women in the '20s, Katie Sandwina and Minerva, and these women who were performing in the circuses. They were out there and yes, they were outlifting a lot of the men.

I mean, Katie Sandwina was famous for holding her husband over her head with one hand. It was incredible, but she was holding her husband over her head with one hand, not your husband, not your husband, not this guy on the street. It was okay because she was a married woman with children who still made the home. It allowed men to feel safe saying, “Oh, cool, she's strong.”

Then that never really changed. I tracked down for the book, this movie called Pumping Iron II. Pumping Iron was Arnold Schwarzenegger's, that was the movie that really brought bodybuilding to the mainstream for men. Pumping Iron II, the women came out in the '70, or sorry, Pumping Iron II came out later than that. I'm not remembering the exact year, but it was a bit later than the first one.

It's ostensibly about a women's bodybuilding show and we're following the women who are competing. But what it's really about is this message of when do we get to say and how are we supposed to say what a woman's body is supposed to look like? What is too strong? What is too bulky?

It comes up because there's this woman, Bev Francis, who's coming to the competition that they're filming. Bev, unlike the other women, is really jacked. I mean she is what a bodybuilder was supposed to look like. It's all men on the judging panel and the older men are saying things like, “Well, that's too bulky. We don't want to turn people off. We want to turn them on,” which you don't hear that in the first Pumping Iron.

Is she too muscular? Is she too bulky for our show? Is this what we actually want? You have to appreciate that there's a couple of people who step up and say, “Well, this is a show about muscle. This is a show about how much muscle they can put on. That's what we want to see. That's what we care about.”

But the fact that's still an argument in a sport that exists entirely so that women can show off how muscular and strong they are was wild to me. It really kept going over time. I mean, the other thing that was influential for me growing up was when we started to see these women with really muscular, toned, this nonsensical word “toned,” I know people who are listening to this can't see me doing air quotes, but it's important that you know that I don't think toned is an actual thing. It's just low body fat and muscle.

But we would see Madonna and Angela Bassett, and those were the arms that I remember really wanting. Then you turn to these women's magazines, and the trainers for those women were saying, “Oh, yeah, they're doing high reps with two-pound dumbbells and then they're eating chicken and vegetables for lunch.”

Once again, we're saying, “You can look a certain way, but let's be careful about what it looks like, in long lean muscles, not bulk, not big muscles, but ones that are pretty and sinewy and that's what's important.”

We've just been doing this dance forever of saying, “Yeah, we love strong women, but not too strong.” You never know it's this expectation and this standard that we are supposed to somehow know where we're going to meet that and not go past it into this level where we're considered freakish. It's exhausting.

Michelle MacDonald: Bingo, gosh. You couldn't have delivered the goods better. It's exactly this unending, exhausting dichotomy, that woman. I really think that's how we are socialized. It is this constant yes, no, yes, no, not too much. You're left in this state, especially when girls are very vulnerable and very young trying to figure it out, there's no clarity.

We always think about those magazines that we had growing up, but I think they're still out there where you have the picture of this beautiful woman with the 24-inch waist or whatever, and it's how to lose seven pounds. Then also, here's a recipe for this million-calorie chocolate cake.

It's that exhaustion that we get into. We still see it today, and we encourage it in each other. Not too much. Encouraging each other, but not to the point where somebody now is competitive with you. Again, the real meaning of competition is striving together. We should be pushing each other on and other people's wins should inspire you to aspire for that yourself and do the things necessary to cultivate that kind of value.

Alyssa Ages: Yeah, and how many times are you going to a workout class where they're encouraging you to pick up the slightly heavier weights, but then they're also talking to you about your summer body?

Has a man ever been told that he's got to build his summer body? He's got to look better in his swim trunks? It's these crazy mixed messages that we get where it's just about strength is okay, lifting weights is okay, as long as you're doing it to still conform to what we deem to be socially acceptable as the size and the shape of a woman.

The most recent, the Arnold Sports Festival that I was at, what I loved is if you look at the group of women who competed in the professional strong women, they are all different shapes, sizes, heights, and weights, and they're all wildly strong and wildly capable, and it is such a great example of “It actually really doesn't matter what your body looks like, but what can you do with it?”

That's what I want to embrace about my body. It's always the struggle because of how I grew up, but it is what I'm really trying to do with my daughters. One of my great joys is I'll see them sitting at the breakfast table and comparing their muscles. They'll go flex their bicep and go, “I'm stronger.” “No, I'm stronger.” I'm like, “Argue it out, this is great. Keep doing it.”

Michelle MacDonald: I love that. It's like what I do with my own mom, Joan. Now it's like synonymous. If you take a picture with mom, it's like, “Okay, you've got a flex your bicep.” I love that strongwoman sport is so democratizing in a lot of ways. I didn't realize.

Because I think in terms of leverages, I thought there would be particular things like wide hips, good base, a particular body that excelled, but you're saying no, it's very democratized. It's like whoever shows up and can develop their talent. I guess probably too because that perseverance is a factor, which is very mental.

Alyssa Ages: Yeah, I mean, if you look at even the, so the podium from the most recent Arnold, which was in the UK, one of the women I interviewed for my book, who I just adore and think is amazing, Nadia Stowers, she is built like a bodybuilder. That's what she looks like. She's all kind of visible muscle.

Then you've got the woman who came in first, who doesn't have that classic bodybuilder build but is just wildly strong. She broke a world record on the deadlift. Seeing them next to each other, it's like the sport is for everybody. It's for everybody who just wants to be strong and see what kind of limits can they push.

Also, I always feel like I have to tell people, “You don't have to go and lift out the stones and try to pull a 50-ton truck to push your limits. That can be anything from just picking up the 10-pound dumbbells in your group fitness class instead of the 5-pound ones this week. Yeah, you'll get a few less reps and you'll struggle through them, but you'll feel better knowing that you tried something and now you go, ‘Okay, that's my new limit. That's the new thing that I'm striving for.’”

Michelle MacDonald: And you flip that switch in your mind. You really start challenging yourself. Gosh, I could keep you on here forever.

Alyssa Ages: We can talk about this forever so it’s great.

Michelle MacDonald: Me too. God, just everything to do with female empowerment and getting strong in all aspects, or what it could possibly mean for us. It's my jam. You talk about distilling the stories of all the people that you were interviewing to try to get this one essential truth. I love this, what you found out was that becoming strong makes you happy.

This idea of play that is so essential to latch onto and is that your current coach or your old coach?

Alyssa Ages: My current coach, yeah.

Michelle MacDonald: Okay. Dane Wallace. Is it a he or she? Sorry, it's a he, sorry, Dane. He’s based in Toronto?

Alyssa Ages: Yeah.

Michelle MacDonald: Okay, so Dane, we're giving you a shout-out. I hope I said his name right. He said exercise is play for adults. Getting rid of this word even of exercise and just talking about play. If you want to be healthier as you age, you've got to find a way to play.

Whatever that means, but he said, “Every goddamn adult in the world needs to lose the idea of exercise and focus more on just using the body for fun,” and that we have lost that for sure.

Again, this is where you use social media the right way, because I don't know. The algorithm, I'm like, I'm going to freaking like oh, my algorithm. If I ever pause on something too long, I'm like, “Oh, my god,” and then I’m just like, “Don't look at anything that's that thing,” because sometimes the curiosity grabs you, the grotesque like, “Oh, my god, no.”

But currently, right now, I get thrown so much cool content but these older people, 70, 80, this 80-year-old guy legit sprinting, we're talking like his stride, the stride against the body movement patterns, everything was insane. It was a real sprint. It wasn't like a person shuffling, sprinting.

Then other older people doing agility work and jumping and really moving better than probably a lot of 20-year-olds. Again, this speaks to we absolutely need to make it mainstream that how we are conditioned to think aging is, is only a function of our lifestyle. There are these other easy levers that we need to be pulling. This idea of fun is so important. This is so much fun. I love how you talk about training. It's fun for you.

Alyssa Ages: Yeah, it's a blast. It's part of why I love strongman, all this weird equipment. You're constantly having to think about “How am I going to pick this thing up? Where do my hands need to be? Where do my feet need to be?” It's changed the way I see the world too because I'm walking down the street and I'm like, “That rock looks like a really good rock to lift,” which is objectively a weird way to go through life.

I remember one of the people I was interviewing, I was like, “Why do you think we're obsessed with strength?” She was like, “Well, I don't know that everybody is.” I do think that for some people, a trip to Target is just a trip to Target. Then there are those of us who are like, “Ooh, Atlas Stones.”

But yeah, I think again, this is also like something that we're told as we age, which is that we're not supposed to be doing these silly goofy fun things anymore, unless you're maybe doing them with your kids, you're not supposed to be doing it on your own. You're old for that now.

But the second that you stop playing is the second again, that you just start aging yourself really early. I credit Dane a lot with helping me, I don't want to say not take the sport as seriously because I do think I take my training seriously, but I don't take my losses, my failures, and all that kind of stuff as seriously anymore because otherwise, I'm not going to enjoy what I'm doing.

It's important to go out there and have a good time with it and find that love of it and that playfulness. As kids, that's how we understand the world is by playing. What does this surface feel like? Is it hard or is it bouncy? I'm going to go jump on it. Is that thing heavy? Let me try to pick it up and throw it.

That's how we interact with the world and you don't want to lose that as you get older and I think it's really easy to, but I think it's just incredibly important. It helps keep us happy. It changes the way that our brains work.

Some of the stuff that I'll do occasionally is because I'll have my strength training four times a week, and then I get one day where I'm supposed to go for a run, and not supposed to, but I love running, so I will still go for a run once a week, when it's snowy, it's cold, or it's whatever, I go to the rock climbing gym because there is something that I just love so much about having to use my brain that way and just think, “Okay, where does my hand go next, where does my foot go next?”

Also, just at its core, how fun and silly is it to go, "I'm going to climb this wall. I'm going to scale this wall from the ground to the ceiling." There's that level of joy in it, or I took a parkour class recently, which was so silly and so fun. It's still exercise, but you're not thinking about it as exercise.

Again, we've been conditioned to think of working out as work. It is literally in the name. It's work. That's how we're supposed to think about it. If we're not sweaty, sore, and tired, then we didn't do it, then we didn't do it well enough. When you think about it that way, you're never going to really stick to something if you don't love it and find it fun and enjoyable.

Michelle MacDonald: Mm-hmm. I think there's something I'd like to tease out because, on the one hand, work is involved. To make something that's impossible possible, you're digging in for the long game. There's work involved in keeping records, making sure you're progressively overloading, and all of that.

But one thing that I really connected with in your writing, particularly when you're talking about that deadlift that you did, the 300-pound gym PR, it resonated with me because it describes so well my journey with powerlifting.

I found this video of myself when I first deadlifted 165 pounds. I was at this gym in Playa del Carmen and it didn't even have bumper plates or anything. I was just getting into it, so I had these little, small, diameter plates and they were hexagonal, which are just awful to deadlift with. I'm tiny, I think I'm 112 pounds. I'm still tiny, I'm 318 pounds [inaudible] yay. But I was 112 pounds and I'm in this cute little outfit, I wouldn't wear it now, and I'm rattling the bar.

I walk up to the bar and I'm really stiff and I'm getting myself amped up and I grab the bar and I rattle it. Then I reset the hips a couple of times and I lift the bar and I'm struggling to get up, I lock it up, I'm so happy. I laugh when I see it because I know exactly what I was picturing in my mind.

I was Ed Cohen because the night before I had a lift, I would look at the numbers I was trying to hit and I would watch like Dan Green and there weren't girls that I was watching, it was Dan Green or Ed Cohen. That's who I was in that moment. That's the joy, the playfulness that you can be anything, you can do anything using your mind to take you on this journey. I feel that you do that too.

Alyssa Ages: Yeah, to your point, it's hard work, but you have to love it enough that the work doesn't feel like a chore. It can be work and not feel like something that you dread doing. It can be work that you really want to do and you want that feeling afterwards of your muscles shaking and just that sense of accomplishment of whether or not you make the lift, that sense of accomplishment of just going out there and trying it is so valuable. That resonates a lot with me.

Michelle MacDonald: The idea of continually doing the same thing over and over again, which is part of the journey to excellence, I think was Kobe Bryant, even at the top of his game, was still doing insane. Part of his every day was sinking a ridiculous amount of shots with a three-point line or something.

Coaches, of course, would like to draw on that when we say it's not about perfection. You've got to just love all the things, always, always. But I think there's a switch in your mind that you have to be adept at flipping, catching yourself when you're teetering on the negotiation or, “Oh, maybe I'll just lift a lighter weight,” or whatever. You've got to take pride and delight in doing something that's insane and you got to do it. You got to tap into it over and over again over the weeks.

Alyssa Ages: Yeah. One of the people I interviewed, Stefi Cohen, who is a multi-time world champion powerlifter.

Michelle MacDonald: Amazing.

Alyssa Ages: Yeah, she's incredible. But she talked to me about that. She talked to me about this idea of you have to become a master of the mundane. You have to do the same thing over and over and over again, accumulate those hours and those reps in order to improve at something.

Doing that also knowing that you may get to the end of that and see no progress at all. Sometimes you're going to go backwards and not saying, “Okay, well, that work was for nothing because I didn't get what I wanted out of it,” but going, “Well, I appreciated the journey to get here.”

When you talk about that, that gym PR, when I finished nationals and I wasn't happy with how it went, one of the things I had to sit with was, “But look at all the things you did leading up to it. If you only see this as the important thing, then none of the rest of that matters.”

How sad is that, the year of my life to look back and say that doesn't matter because the end place that I got to wasn't where I wanted to be. One of my just a hands down favorite, favorite quotes from the book, and I wish I had printed it out in front of me so that I could actually get it exactly right, but was from someone named Colin Bryce.

He was the World's Strongest Man competitor. He was an Olympic bobsledder, and he's now the program director for World's Strongest Man. He was talking about the World's Strongest Man. He said, “The World's Strongest Man is invariably someone with a hole in his heart. Because he thinks that when he wins, when he's crowned king of the world, everything will be different. But then he wakes up the next morning and finds out he's just the same person as he was the day before and that's a terrifying thought."

When he said it to me, I thought, "Wow, what a great sound bite." But I didn't think it applied to me. It wasn't until I finished nationals and I sat there in this bummed-out place about it that I went, "Oh, my god, I get it now.”

Yeah. If you don't care about everything leading up until that moment, all of the hard work you've put in, all of the PRs, and the things that you've done and the achievements that you've done on the way to that point, if none of those matter, then nothing else is going to matter either.

You're just going to feel this huge letdown afterwards when you go, "I've gotten to the top of the mountain, and now what? What matters now? Am I a completely different person than I was the day before?"

I remember even after I pulled the truck going out the next day and expecting people to just see me as this mom who pulled a 50-ton truck, and I'm like, "Nobody knows this about you. You don't walk around carrying a video of it or a picture of it. You're just you, but now you're you that also did this really cool thing." It had to matter to me. To me, just knowing that and myself, then it would matter to anybody else.

Michelle MacDonald: Yeah, I think there's this book that I love to walk my clients through called Chop Wood Carry Water. Have you heard of it?

Alyssa Ages: Yes. [inaudible] told me about that.

Michelle MacDonald: Yeah, okay. It's falling in love with the process of becoming great. We talk a lot with our clients about everything that you choose. Number one, choose your goal wisely. Make sure it's truly in alignment with your values. It's not just something that somebody else is doing. We've got to be really careful about that again.

But choose your goal wisely. Then all the things that you do to achieve that goal, your systems, your processes, really, what I say is really imbue those with passion and awareness because those are the things that are developing your character.

At the end of the day, your character is everything. That's what you're left with. That's the house you're building, not your accolades. It's not your job, not your money, your bank account. It's your character. That's the intimate relationship that you have with yourself.

Alyssa Ages: Yeah. What better way to teach yourself about who you are and what you're capable of than pushing your limits and going, "Okay, well, I thought it was here, but what actually is the endpoint?"

Michelle MacDonald: And there's no endpoint.

Alyssa Ages: Yeah.

Michelle MacDonald: There really isn't. There's always a way to look at it. I mean, when you're 70 and you're doing whatever it is that you're doing, even if it is not the same weight per pound as when you were 30, you're doing it at 70. That in itself is absolutely incredible.

Continually, I call it, you always gotta see the way that you're winning. You gotta look for the win, you gotta go for the win, and be able to recalibrate continuously to feel it, to actually viscerally, emotionally, spiritually feel how you won in that moment. It's so good.

Alyssa Ages: Yeah, exactly.

Michelle MacDonald: Hey guys. Thanks for tuning in to another episode of The Wonder Women Podcast. You know we don't make money from this podcast. Our mission is to get as much great information out there to the widest audience possible to help more people like you thrive at any age.

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Thank you for joining us. That was episode two, featuring author, Alyssa Ages. She wrote the book, Secrets of Giants. If you haven't picked that book up, I highly recommend that you read that. You can also follow Alyssa Ages on her website, She's also a frequent writer for The Globe and Mail. Thanks again and tune in next week for another episode.