Exercise and the Inner Critic

Today’s chapter of The Perfection Detox was “Change Your Relationship with Exercise.”

Petra’s words were, “a day for me would be defined as good or bad depending on the length and quality of my workout routines.”

As for me, I simply cannot relate. (Riiiight)!

Sometimes, I feel like there are a whole airplane full of people in my head… and the ones that chatter the longest and loudest are the ones in the back row, next to the toilets!
Does anyone out there know what I’m talking about?
I have found movement to be a surefire way to quiet the noice, bump the negativity, and restore mental peace.  After laying it “all-out” through intense exercise, a moderate-paced long jog, or even just walking the dog, I feel free. My body accomplished something magnificent and I feel absolutely wonderful. It’s the antidote to anxiety for me.  It truly transcends me to this happy place where all feels well.

Where I have to check myself before I wreck myself is when I overvalue the vanity side of exercise.  It’s a good thing to want to maintain a healthy BMI.  It’s a bad thing to obsess over every ounce of body weight.  When “image” becomes everything, good enough is never good enough.

It’s a common pitfall among fitness professionals.  Well-known fitness journalist, and  Fitness Test Drive blogger, Amanda Vogel, recently and passionately wrote “Does The Fitness Industry Have a Body Image Problem” for IDEA Fitness Journal.  A very insightful read, and turns out- yes, it does (we do).

Here’s an example of how image can become the fuel that my inner critic (the passenger on the back seat of the airplane in my head with all that chatter) runs with.

In fall 2015, I packed on 7-pounds, without changing a thing with my diet or activity level, but I was dealing with quite a bit of stress. Stress hormones can totally wreck your sleep and, also, pack on pounds.  January 2016, I had the biggest photo shoot of my career, and I was heavier than I’ve been in years. It was an entire sports bra shoot. My inner critic shook her finger and ranted “You’ve been lean, but now you’re not! You amateur! You are on the package of fitness products? Nobody would buy this with your image on the cover! Too bad it wasn’t last April- you looked amazing back then! That was what true fitness professionals look like. You shouldn’t even get paid for this!”
That inner critic of mine! I’m telling you, she’s harsh! She sits on the back seat of the airplane, right next to the shitter! She keeps talking, and the shit keeps coming!

I have felt, as a fitness professional, that I’m a failure to the fitness community if I look anything less than perfect. And yet, embracing Mother Nature and the aging process, I know that the perfect body is not sustainable. So, even when I am happy with my appearance, I feel like a fraud, because I know it won’t last. And it won’t!

I choose to release my choke hold death grip on “looking the part,” and focus more on just living the part. I am educated, experienced, fit, and knowledgeable- I am the “consummate fitness professional,” said Lindsay Vastola in my PFP Magazine feature. I also have two children and an adoring husband that need me to be spending more time enjoying our family and being 100% present with them.  I cannot do that if my mind is all-consumed with what my body looks like and when I can get my next workout in.

I love how movement can bring joy and happiness.  An able body is a gift, and what a pleasure it is to use that gift!  I don’t want to taint all of that goodness by trumping emotional wellness with physical figure.  I am a fitness professional.  I will always try to keep my body in shape.  But may that not be the reason I exercise.  I hope the same for you, too!

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Is Social Media Casting a Cloud Over Your Life?

It must have been the day that the universe decided I needed to be hit over the head by media against spending too much time on media (social, that is).

First, it was a book I’m currently reading- and it’s so yummy, I wish I could eat it. The book is called “The Perfection Detox.” It is written by my friend and mentor, Petra Kolber. I was reading “Step 10: Take Time Out From Social Media.” It was on how social media can make us feel “less-than” by comparing our back story to everyone else’s highlight reel.

Then, I popped open the latest edition of Experience Life magazine, where the perils of social media were pinned as a habitual quest of “doing” and a lack of peace with just “being.”

Being an impulsive personality, I am certain I pop my FB and Insta apps open far more times throughout the day than I’m even conscientious of doing! But I’m not looking at other people’s stories with judgment or jealousy. I hope people don’t look at mine that way. We must all be responsible for our thoughts and make a rainbow intervention when we start letting negative thoughts slip in. If social media had come a place that you go to harbor clouds over your life where there are none, maybe it’s time to take a social break. With the power of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet, delete those apps and bring life’s sunny side back up!

For me, here’s where/when social brings me down… when the same men, especially those who have harassed me in the past, routinely “like” my photos and videos. I use my body to inspire people to movement through photos and videos on Instagram and Facebook. My vibe undeniably attracts a tribe of women. When a male colleague in the fitness industry or a friend from college likes (or loves) my posts, I know their support is just that- supportive. But when it’s a random old man- who happens to be a stranger- and his “likes” just keep coming with every sports bra post, I die a little inside. I feel sad, grossed out, and disappointed. But I didn’t put myself out there for him. Why should his attention chip away my self-esteem. (I’m sure creepers everywhere think much the opposite- that we would be grateful for their ogling and barrage of “likes”… but wrong. And ewww!) Then I start thinking I’m exposing too much of myself on the internet and I should cover up more. But my subconscious, BB, quickly roars, “No! You are tasteful in the clothing you pick and you’re showing people what’s possible with hard work. Do your thing, girl!”
And do my thing, I will.
I know there’s a function on social media that allows you to block a person, but I am a people-pleaser to a fault! (Through “The Perfection Detox,” I’ve discovered that my #1 negative recurring thought is “You’re a disappointment.” Now that I’ve recognized it, I can start to fix it). So, I have worried about hurting feelings by blocking suspected man-spam. Then, I worry that they’ll find me some other way and retaliate- with anger and rage- for blocking them. Well, I’m not as familiar with the block button as I hope to become, but I have blocked a few people. That’s something. And, watch out social stalkers, I liked it- a lot!4A9ABD7D-8F16-41A8-BF96-EE27E156E9B3

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11 of Brook’s Fave Bodyweight Moves

Leo Lions are creative, fun-loving, and energetic!  Being a Leo, myself, I decided to create an August countdown (count up) of my favorite bodyweight moves.  From August 1-August 11, I instructed a new move each day and layered it on top of the exercises leading up to then.  August 11, my birthday, was the grand finale of 11 of my favorite bodyweight exercises, all put together!  Whether you’re a Leo Lion, too (Happy Birthday to you!) or not, I hope you’ll enjoy these 11 bodyweight moves, put together into a 4-minute workout!


1 Dive-bomber +
2 Plank Shoulder Taps +
3 Clap Push-Ups +
4 Breakdancers +
5 Hip Openers to Backbends +
6 Pop Jacks +
7 Burpees +
8 Floor Taps +
9 Triple Lateral Bounds to Tuck Jumps +
10 Pivot Lunges +
11 Quick, Quick, Slow Plyo Lunges

For a video explanation of each move, see the CardioPump Fitness Facebook page.

For tons more instantly-accessible workout videos with Brook, join the CardioPump Membership.

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My Message- PFP Magazine, Summer 2018


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26-minute A-Z Bodyweight Workout

After 26 blogs, 26 exercises, 26 instructional videos, and 26 @BrookBenten Instagram posts, it all comes down to this 26-minute workout!

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Z is for Z Sit

A Z Sit is a gentle limbering exercise.  Done alone, it’s a so-so stretch with so-so strength engagement exercise of the gluteus medius.  But adding a can-can (“V Sit”) to transition to the other side adds awesome core strength and bumps the Z Sit to a pretty good way to spend a minute!

Step 1: Have a seat on the floor.  Stagger your legs to the side with both knees bent.

Step 2: Lift both legs up through the center to transition to the other side.

Step 2: Stagger your legs to the other side with both knees bent.

“Z” is for Z Sit!
Do 1-minute of this move…

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Y is for Yoga

Yoga improves flexibility, muscular endurance, balance, and helps you to focus on breath. This series of yoga poses can be expected to be performed several times through in any Vinyasa Flow yoga class. Here are the steps!

Step 1: Mountain Pose- Stand tall with your arms by your sides, palms facing forward.

Step 2: Extended Mountain Pose- (inhale) Reach your arms long overhead.

Step 3: Swan Dive- (exhale) Drop your chest and let your arms follow as you fold your body in half, taking your chin toward your chins.

Step 4: Lengthen Your Spine- (inhale) Lift your back to flat, like the top of a table {this prepares your back for the next step}

Step 5: Forward Fold- (exhale) Return to the position at the end of “Step 3.”

Step 6: Step or Jump to top of a push-up (“float” is often instructed in yoga in place of “jump”)

Step 7: (inhale) Draw your body weight slightly forward on your toes. Bend your elbows and hover your body halfway down to the ground. Keep your elbows tight in to your ribcage.

Step 8: Cobra- (exhale) and draw your chest through to a lower back strengthening pose where your chest is lifted and belly down (low cobra) or chest and hips lifted and legs down (full cobra- more advanced) or chest, hips and legs lifted and tops of the feet down (upward facing dog- most advanced)

Step 9: Downward Facing Dog- You may add a triceps push-up (optional) then draw your hips up and back, drop your heels toward the floor, suction cup your hands to the ground and press through all parts of your hands (even into your fingertips), and pull your chest and torso through your arms, as if trying to bring them closer to your thighs.

Step 10: Rise on your tippy toes and slightly bend your hips and knees, like a crouching tiger.

Step 11: Step or jump (“float”) your feet in-between your hands.

Step 12: Reverse swan dive to return to “Step 2″ (inhale) Extended Mountain Pose.

Step 13: (exhale) Return to Mountain Pose “Step 1″

“Y” is for Yoga.
Do 1-minute of these moves…

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X is for X Jumps

X Jumps are cardio exercises that work the gluteus medius and minimus; the lateral deltoids; and the core. In other words, they work the same muscles as jumping jacks– but the intensity is much greater! An “X Jump” is a jumping jack performed in the air.

Step 1: Bend your hips and knees slightly and hold your arms in toward your chest.

Step 2: Jump up and spread your arms and legs out wide in the air to form an “X.”

Step 3: Land lightly, toe-to-heel, as you return to the floor. (Also, be sure to wear the right footwear for high impact exercise. I recommend Ryka cross trainers for women).

Modify an X Jump the same way you would a jumping jack- keep one leg stable on the ground and abduct the other leg out to the side. Come to a shallow squat as you transition between legs. If you have pain in hips, knees, or lower back- or if you are new to exercise- opt for the modification!

“X” is for X Jumps!
Do one-minute of this move…

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W is for Windmill

A windmill is a full-body exercise that improves strength, stability, mobility, and flexibility. This move is often performed with a kettlebell. It’s best to begin with body weight only to “nail” all of the moving parts, then maybe add equipment in time to come!
Brook Benten kettlebell windmill
Step 1: Take a stance slightly wider than hips width. Turn the toes of the base leg forward and the toes of the free leg towards the side wall. Lift the arm on the base side up towards the ceiling.

Step 2: Bend the free knee. Barely apply any pressure into that foot. Push your weight through the base leg, darting the hip out and back.

Step 3: Slide your hand on the free side down the free leg* with palm facing out. Tip equal and opposite, stopping the movement before your top shoulder starts tipping downward. Slide back up with arms equal and opposite.

*In the video, I reference this as the “loose” leg.  You should relax through the muscles on the free side.  The loose side just provides you with balance.  Put the burden of body weight load on the muscles of the base leg.

“W” is for Windmill
Perform 1-minute of this move…
(30-seconds on each side)

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V is for V Up

A “V Up” is a somewhat advanced core strengthening exercise. It can be modified by lifting only one leg at a time (still super hard), or modified further by bending both knees as you draw the legs in, as opposed to keeping the legs straight (better option for those new to exercise– but trust me, your abs will still quiver)!

Step 1: Lay on the ground, belly facing up. Reach your arms long overhead and your legs long away from you. Point your toes.

Step 2: Lift your upper and lower body in tandem to rise up to seated. Reach your hands toward your shins. Hold momentarily.

Resist gravity and lower back to starting position, with control.

“V” is for V Up.
Do 1-minute of this move…

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